Last night (July 24) was a special treat for me and upward of 100 others attending Chihamba's 19th Annual African American Cultural Arts Festival presentation of "A Taste of Ghana" featuring Okyerema Asante at the Burley Middle School.
Online biographical notes describe Okyerema Asante as "a master drummer from Ghana, famous for performing all parts of a traditional five-person drum group by himself. He attaches percussion instruments to various parts of his body and simultaneously plays drums, a balafon, and many other instruments. He has as many as 85 instruments in one performance. Coming from a family of drummers, Asante is an expert of traditional Ghanaian talking drums."
Asante has also toured with Hugh Masekela is playing with Paul Simon on his Graceland album and is well worth seeing in the future if you missed yesterday's performance.
I think it is James Brown who was called something like the hardest working man in music (I don't think that is correct - but close). But, Okyerema Asante might now fit that description. He was constantly in motion - shaking the bells and nuts strung around his lower legs while playing a huge ensemble of drums, the balafon (a xylophone sort of instrument) and a host of other hammered, struck, shaken or plucked instruments - often while telling a story. Incredible.
I and about 10 others joined in on two audience participation numbers playing a variety of percussion instruments while marveling to the drum rythms of Asante.
Asante was dressed in much the manner in the album cover image above, but with a different set of horns. I guess when one tours the world and wear horns as a regular costume item one set might not be enough. Or, perhaps, with strict limits on bringing animal parts into the US, perhaps the ones in the album cover had to remain in Ghana.
There were also several poetry readings by members of our local African-American community, awards to community members and local business sponsors and a great sense of community among all who were present.
But, there was more than the music concert an poetry worth noting. There was a fabulous assortment of traditional dishes from Ghana for all to sample. The menu included Peanut Paste Soup with Chicken, Jjolof Rice, Rice Balls, Ghanaian Pancakes, Ghanaiaan Meat Pie, Fried Red Plantain, Spinach Stew with Meat, Spinach Stew with Fish and Shrimp (my personal favorite), Wakye, and Akala. Perhaps you can check these out on Google search and try them at home. Some of the ingredients in the dishes was grown at the QCC Farm at Sixth Street SE and Monticello Avenue. Now that is definitely eating local!
I had such a good time that I am disappointed this is the first Taste of Ghana I have attended. Be sure to consider attending next year's Taste of Ghana. If it is to be anything like this year's it is worth putting on your calendar now. Iaren Waters, Executive Director of QCC Inc. was the mistress of ceremonies and I am sure put in a great deal of organizational effort along with the rest of her team to make this a memorable community event. Thank you Karen for your efforts and for alerting me to this year's Taste of Ghana. I definitely plan to attend again next year.
But, that is not all....... The African American Cultural Arts Festival will be continuing on Saturday at Booker T. Washington Park starting about 10:00 am and ending at 5:00 pm or so. I will be there too for storytelling, music, dance, and yes - more food. I hope to see you there too.