Music at Anlo-Ewe Funerals
This essay illustrates my use of Anlo-Ewe1 funerals as a medium for expanding my knowledge of music in particular and culture in general. After studying African music and dance at the California Institute of the Arts I received a Fulbright Grant to study in Ghana. Throughout my study of African music my focus has been on Anlo-Ewe dance-drumming. Interest in Anlo-Ewe music led me to Anlo-Ewe funerals which I have found to be a traditional time and place of learning as well as mourning, reunion and celebration. My attendance at several funerals in Anyako, Ghana, created my interest in them. I used my own footage from Anyako and interviewed my teacher Kobla Ladzekpo as a means of better understanding the events I had previously attended. Eventually we exhausted my personal footage and my teachers Kobla Ladzekpo and Dzidzogbe Lawluvi were kind enough to offer some of their own footage of funerals in Anyako for use in this paper.
Before relating my experiences with music at Anlo-Ewe funerals I feel the need to describe them in general.2 In the old tradition after a person died the family and other community members who planned the funeral would have to work quickly. The traditional method of preserving the body with special herbs only lasts a few days at most. Because of this the day of burial, or amedigbe would occur two or three days after the actual day of death. On the day following burial, which is called ndinamegbe, the principal mourners would receive greetings from sympathizers. Then the day for the wake or nudogbe would occur either four or six days later, depending on the clan of the deceased person. The day after the wake-keeping, known to Anlo-Ewe as yofogbe, would feature the lineage rituals for the dead person. Also on this day the mourners would begin to receive contributions from the community to help pay for the funeral. Akontawogbe would occur three days after the lineage rites were performed. Akonta is actually a corruption of the English word account. On this day the donations would be compiled and the state of the funeral budget would be made public. Shortly after a person dies the members of both the maternal and paternal sides of their family will have a meeting to decide what the budget for the funeral should be. This estimate is known in Anlo-Ewe as "ku mebge ga" 3 After this estimation of expenses has been made, members of the family will be called upon to make contributions to pay for the immediate funeral arrangements. After donations have been received from the community the family will hold a private meeting. During this meeting they will repay some of the money that their members contributed to the funeral. This day is called xomefewogbe 4 in Anlo-Ewe.
Today the procedure has changed somewhat in order to accommodate the needs of members of the community who have moved away. Presently the day of burial may occur anytime from a couple of weeks to a couple of months after the day of death. In the past - as I previously stated - the traditional herbs used to preserve the body only lasted a couple days. Now through the use of modern technology and mortuaries the body can be preserved much longer. This allows more time to notify all of the appropriate persons and plan the funeral. Obviously this can also increase the cost of a funeral considerably. Presently the day of burial is almost always on a Saturday as opposed to the past when it could occur any day. Likewise the preceding day when the body is received from the mortuary and laid in state for the wake-keeeping is always on a Friday and the subsequent day when sympathies and monetary donations are received is a Sunday. This allows people who live far away and have employment obligations to attend the most important events of a funeral on the weekend and not miss work.
Anlo-Ewe funerals consist of several events that take an extended period of time to complete. For this reason it has become necessary to condense certain events into a weekend length celebration in order to accommodate the needs of all the members of the community. Thus the old tradition has remained intact even though common practice has modified it.
I quickly realized that Anlo-Ewe funerals are among the most likely events to provide traditional music and dance. This may seem strange to someone outside of Anlo-Ewe culture but would appear obvious to an Anlo-Ewe or someone who has experienced their culture. Unlike the somber atmosphere I experienced at funerals here in the United States, the funerals I attended in Ghana were colorful, celebrative occasions.5 It is not at all unusual for there to be as many as three groups performing simultaneously at an Anlo-Ewe funeral. While I admit at first it seemed very different from an American funeral, later on I was able to find some similarities. A funeral in Anlo-Ewe culture is a celebration in honor of the deceased.
The groups performing at a person's wake keeping and subsequent day of burial will be the groups he/she belonged to. These can be both religious and secular groups. Representatives from these groups and members of the family will decide the proper time and place for the various events of a funeral. Members of the family and other members of the community may chose to commission performances on the days leading up to the night of the wake keeping and day of burial. These performances may or may not be given by groups that the deceased person belonged to. People may also chose to commission a performance as long as a year or two after the actual day of burial. The reason for this is that someone who may not have been able to attend the funeral will want to honor the person somehow when they are able to travel home.
A person who actively participates in many community organizations, especially dance-drumming groups can be sure to have a grand funeral. "Kugbe nuti wo no vu ha me do." 6 This is an Anlo-Ewe proverb which translates : "You join a dance group for the day you die." To understand this you need to keep in mind that performers in a traditional music and dance group don't receive monetary compensation in the manner that hired musicians or dancers receive here in the United States. If you belonged to several groups during your life they will all play at your funeral to honor you and your memory. Performances given in this situation are not a profit making venture. One way that the performers are compensated is through drinks that the bereaved family will provide as a refreshment. This is known as dzadodo. Literally dzadodo means invitational prize. Sympathizers who attend the funeral will also provide drinks to refresh the performers. They may do this by giving it to them directly or they may give it to the bereaved family who will then decide how to use it.7 To make this more clear I feel the need to state that the musicians and dancers do not give their performances at funerals in exchange for alcohol. I would rather compare it to a common practice I have experienced here in the United States. When someone comes to your house to visit you offer them something to drink, especially if it is hot outside. This is not a strict rule of course but rather a common courtesy we provide to each other as friends and family.
It is very important that a funeral be a well organized, lively event. A person with a spectacular funeral obviously brought honor to their family and community through their active involvement in the same. Young children are easily impressed by such great events thus creating an interest in things like the community's history and culture. Stories about the deceased will be told by the elders at funerals and in this way history can be passed on by word of mouth. This is also the most appropriate and therefore most likely time for formal instruction in performance. One time that I saw this occur was at the funeral of Emmanuel Ladzekpo.8
While waiting to receive the body of Emmanuel Ladzekpo the afternoon before his wake-keeping, the Lashibi 9 group performed Atsiãgbeko 10 and Gadzo 11 I was fortunate enough to have Emanuel's father, Joseph K. Ladzekpo - who I know as Uncle Joe - request that I play Kloboto 12 during the Atsiãgbeko performance. During the Gadzo (hatsiatsia 13 section) performance the group had some problems with a particular segment. First an elder man told the group to take time and learn how to do it properly. Next an elder woman, named Awoyoga Nunekpeku, stepped in and demonstrated a very long song. Later in the performance this same woman danced and all of the members of the group kneeled down as a gesture of respect and appreciation. Upon reviewing the video tape of this performance I learned that Awoyoga was an original member of Gadzo 14. The performing members of this group are second generation members of Gadzo. This is one of the methods through which the tradition of this music is passed on from generation to generation and funerals are the venue.
On the day of burial during the funeral of Emanuel Ladzekpo there was a performance given by the Axatsevu 15 group which he belonged to in Accra. This group dressed in black which signified that they were in mourning for their recently deceased member. The Atsiãgbeko and Gadzo groups from the Lashibi division - where he is from - performed as well.
As I stated earlier, these are second generation members of Gadzo. The original Gadzo members were in their young to mid-twenties when they formed the group in 1939 or 1940. Some of the original members are: Joeseph K. Ladzekpo, Ben K. Ladzekpo, Daniel Agbata Ahlidza, Kosivi Dedzo, Komi Yegbe Atatsi, Atsusaga Sefoga, Afiwo Ladzekpo, Awoyogã Nunekpeku, Atsoedo Sefoga, Akuwo Atatsi, Adzowo Dzokoto, and Bertha Bobodzi. When they formed the original Gadzo group the chief didn't want them to use real swords. He was concerned about the dancers accidentally injuring each other or themselves. On behalf of the Gadzo members, Kpese Nunekpeku and Kwaku Kpogo Ladzekpo approached Daniel Agbata Ahlidza's father who then created and initiated all of the Gadzo members into a special cult. This cult protected the members from injury during a performance. During the performance on Emmanuel's day of burial I saw a movement which makes a reference to this protection. Uncle Ben - who is an original member of the Gadzo group - did a dance movement with Daniel Agbata Ahlidza. As part of the movement Uncle Ben struck him with his sword. This movement demonstrates the power of the Gadzo Cult. They do this with real swords and can never be hurt. Uncle Ben only strikes him a couple times before being asked to stop.16
Traditionally on the day of buriel the coffin will be brought to the performance area or areas. At this time they will pour some libation and talk in honor of the person's memory. In honor of Emmanuel, a large group of people whom he worked with at the Internal Revenue Service made a presentation. They were from Accra and chartered a bus to Anyako specifically to attend the funeral. At this point in the funeral it is also traditional to perform some short versions of the pieces the deceased person always enjoyed participating in as a way of saying farewell. In Emmanuel Ladzekpo's case it was Atsiãgbeko, Gadzo and Kpegisu.17
The Axatsevu group as well as members of Emanuel's family and community who traveled to Anyako for his funeral are an excellent example of how a funeral functions as a reunion. An Anlo-Ewe proverb : "Ku he vemelawo de go." Translated literally it means: "Death has brought fishes from deep down in the sea." The inside meaning of this proverb is: "Death has brought people from far away."18 Funerals are one of the few occasions when members of a family will all be in the same place at the same time as circumstances of marriage and employment often cause them to live far apart. This is similar to my own experiences in America at funerals for my grandfather, mother, etc. These reunions help to ease some of the grief caused by the death of a family member. They also help to insure a good performance as they bring the full force of a community's musicians and dancers together for a particular event. This brings to mind another Anlo-Ewe proverb: "Adidi gedee lea abo " Which means literally: "It takes many white ants to catch a grasshopper."19 The inside meaning of this proverb demonstrates the power of unity. These performances are crucial to the success of a funeral. 20 The strength that the reunions and the music pass on to the participants of a funeral nurture the community as a whole.21 This in turn enables them to properly honor their deceased loved one.
I experienced this first hand on several occasions. Usually I would be notified of a death in the family or community by a male family member. This person would come to the house I was staying at in Accra early in the morning. Sometimes I would see the person who notified me simply as a result of conducting my everyday business. Then I would pass this information on to other members of the family/community I came in contact with. Almost always they would have heard the news before I saw them. We would talk about the latest developments in the funeral arrangements and would discuss our plans for traveling to Anyako.
When I arrived in Anyako for these and other occasions I was greeted "Woezo " which means "welcome" in Anlo-Ewe. Then we would exchange the traditional formal greeting that the Anlo-Ewes use. This greeting is quite lengthy and consists of inquiring about the health of family and friends. The informal short greetings which I learned to exchange with my friends are not appropriate at a funeral. I tried to use the long greeting which I found very difficult like the rest of the Anlo-Ewe language but I never perfected it so I was always scolded by the elder members of my adopted family, the Ladzepkos. People will also greet the members of the deceased person's family: "Miawoe do wom " which means: "You are doing well."22 This is a way of congratulating the family for properly organizing the funeral.
The family and community members who planned the funeral of Treve Segbedzi utilized their own program for receiving his body. Treve belonged to many groups: Afli,23 Yeve,24 Afa,25 Adzida.26 To receive his body the Afli group performed simultaneously with a Yeve group.27 Treve founded his own house of shrine in the Yeve cult. Treve's son and daughter are the head priest and priestess28 of his shrine. Only members of the Yeve religion may participate in Yeve music and dance performances. An exception is made for associate members during many performances and for non-associate members at funerals. Many people are associate members so they can participate in Yeve activities. However, only initiated members may participate in the Yeve annual season/festival. Each house of Yeve has its own festival. The houses coordinate this with each other so that no two house have their seasons simultaneously. The season occurs approximately in the spring but can be as late as fall in the event of scheduling conflicts.
Another exception is made for guests of the community who have traveled from far away. I learned this from personal involvement. At Treve's funeral on the night before burial I was invited to dance during the wake-keeping. The Yeve group was performing. Many of the people in Anyako had already seen me dance on previous occasions and several women were asking me to dance. I had to wear a piece of cloth around my waist and take my shoes off. Fortunately I was somewhat familiar with the dance steps and the crowd enjoyed my performance. Like the other occasions when I danced at a performance in Anyako it suddenly seemed like everyone wanted to dance with me. The Anlo-Ewes dance all night long. I was tired after a couple of hours and was rescued from dancing myself to exhaustion by my friend, Kafui Gbewonyo. Because the performance took place at a funeral I was allowed to participate even though I am not even an associate member of the Yeve religion. The only time I could experience participating in Yeve music and dance in its cultural context was at a funeral. I was a guest in the community and I was there specifically to learn about traditional music and dance. Funerals are also the only time I was allowed to video tape Yeve performances. Very often I had to make a difficult decision on whether to dance or operate my camera.
At Treve's funeral on the day of burial the Afã, Yeve and Adzida groups performed simultaneously. These performances begin very early in the morning, usually around 5:00 AM and continue throughout the afternoon until the body is actually buried. To an outside viewer who is unfamiliar with Anlo-Ewe funerals this event would probably look like a cultural festival complete with vendors selling food and drink. The scale on which these performances take place is impossible to capture with one video camera. While the performance areas for the various groups are adjacent to one another the area as a whole is very large. The various performances vary in intensity from time to time. Very often several members performing at a funeral will be obligated to perform in more than one group.
The performances that take place on this day as well as the day before must meet a strict set of protocol that satisfies all of the requirements of the deceased person's mourners. If the person belonged to one or both of them the Afã and Yeve groups will play their various pieces in a certain order.29 As the day progresses the members of the religions that the deceased person belonged to will have to perform certain last rites before burial.
During his lifetime Treve played a very active role in the community in general and the groups who performed at his funeral in particular. He always led the Afã songs. When he was young he played the lead drum for many groups. One of them was Adzida. As he grew older he stopped drumming and took on different roles during performances. One of these was leading the women's songs for Adzida .30 Treve's sons and other family members as well as his close friends played major roles in the funeral performances. Many of the pallbearers were Treve's grandchildren. Typically male grandchildren carry the casket. This is similar to what I experienced at my grandfather's funeral when my male cousins and myself were designated as the pallbearers.
Treve was a member of the Afã religion and they must perform certain rituals for him. The final ritual performed before burial for members of the Afã and Yeve religions is called Amadada. During Amadada a processsion leads the way to a nearby island named Klevete where the final part of the Amadada ritual takes place. Only initiated members may be present when this occurs. Then the procession moves back to the place where the body is laid in state. As the procession comes within a few yards of where the body is laid in state they walk backwards. When they reach the place where the deceased person is laid in state, they knock on the door three times. Then they remove a palm branch from the entrance and enter. Only the initiates of the Afã religion may enter the place where the body is laid in state. The body was brought to the area where the Afã group's performance is taking place. They poured some libation and told some stories in honor of Treve. At the same time the Yeve people had to perform their final rites before burial as well. I made the mistake of trying to capture this on videotape. I was quickly shut down by the same people who encouraged me to dance with them the night before. I apologized. As a guest I was given some privileges at funerals but very soon I learned where only the initiates were allowed.31
At Ayiti Kpodo's funeral the Asafo/Afli 32 group performed to receive his body. Ayiti was a very good drummer. He played in Afli, Adzida 33 and Yeve groups. First a procession led the way to the place where the performance was to take place. The women carried leaves. During Afli male dancers will take turns getting up and dancing out a story. The women will throw their leaves on the men to cheer them on and congratulate them for a good performance.
The first dancer seemed to be telling a story about three people together. One has died so now there are only two left. He may also have been demonstrating his relationship to the deceased. Another dancer told a story about the deceased being his mother. Probably his mother came from the same family as Ayiti so by tradition he will consider Ayiti as a symbolic mother figure. During his performance he carries a member of the audience on his back. The person he carried was symbolic of a child.34 Then he thanked everyone for coming and stopped the music by bowing down in front of the drummers. This is the traditional way to end a dance-story. Sometimes these dances can be used to insult someone.
Afli songs are called war songs. The women do not partake in the actual singing of Afli songs. Rather they throw their leaves on the men and act as cheerleaders. Traditionally in times of war women don't fight in battle but they do play their part in the war effort at home. In addition to throwing leaves on the men, a group of women chanted in Anlo-Ewe: "The children of Ayiti are thanking you. Also the family is thanking you."35
Soenyeameto Sokopoli Fiadzo
Soenyeameto Sokopoli Fiadzo had a very big funeral.36 She was the senior wife of her husband. All of her co-wives children called her Daga or "Big Mother." She had many children, grand and great grandchildren. This is very prestigious in Anlo-Ewe culture. Afa and Yeve drumming were used to receive her body. Then Afa and Yeve drumming occurred simultaneously for her wake-keeping. Soenyeameto was laid in state at her daughter in law's house in Anyako.37 Soenyeameto also had a wake-keeping held for her in Nolofi at her father's house. Nolofi is the place where she was actually going to be buried. Soenyeameto lived in Anyako and had many family members and sympathizers there. It would have been very impractical for the whole community to travel to Nolofi for the duration of the funeral so they held the wake in two different places simultaenously. Because she was actually going to be buried in tNolofi, the people in Anyako had to keep sending messengers bearing food, drink and other gifts for Soenyeameto to her father's house there . Soenyeameto is a member of the Yeve religion. Before going near the body of a deceased member of the Yeve religion you must take off your shoes, shirt and head kerchief. The people in her immediate proximity where she was laid in state were from her particular shrine or house of Yeve . Some burial rituals had to be performed by people from her particular shrine.
On the day of burial at the funeral of Soenyeametç Sokopoli Fiadzo there were Afã and Yeve rituals performed. During the Yeve processional they sang a song that means: "Go and collect the herbs."38 This song is in reference to a mixture of herbs that are used in a ceremony that is be performed when they are in the room where the deceased is laid in state. My teacher, Dzidzogbe Lawuvi is one of Soenyeameto's daughters. She and all of her sisters were wearing the colors blue and white instead of the traditional red and black colored garments which are worn at Anlo-Ewe funerals. Because of Soenyeameto's age she is considered to be going to her final resting place so this is why they don't wear red and black.39
Only the close relatives and initiated members are allowed to be present when sealing the coffin. The Yeve group played Afovui 40 when they brought the coffin to their performance area. Then they sang an Adavu 41 song. Immediate members of Soenyeameto's shrine carried her body along with selected members of other shrines. Carrying her is a great honor as she was the most senior member of her shrine and probably all of Anyako. Dzidzogbe's uncle poured libation. They played Davu.42 The coffin was raised three times and then they went to the Afã performance area where they played Anago 43 . Uncle Joe talked for a while and told stories honoring her memory. He spoke about how she encouraged all of them to keep the Afã group together shortly before her death. She was a strong supporter of the Afã religion. The procession carried her to her house in Anyako for the last time. Then the procession left for Nolofi. On the way they stopped at another house Soenyeameto owned at Kpota. Kpota is near Nolofi, the place where she was actually buried. Because her house in Kpota was on the way to Nolofi, they stopped there so she could visit this house one last time. The hearse is decorated for a wedding because she is going to be reunited with her dead husband. They played some Adavu music and spun the coffin around three times before taking her to the burial place. Members of her shrine praised her and asked her for her blessing.
In addition to the groups Soenyeameto Sokopoli Fiadzo belonged to, a group from Aflao 44 named Novisi Habobo came to perform in her honor. Though she did not belong to this group one of her husband's sons who lives in Aflao invited them. Because this was not a local group, two of Soenyeameto's daughters - Kwasiwaga and Masa - danced with the group to make them feel welcome. This happens most often at funerals but also at other ceremonies like a stool ceremony.
Dzogbona Kwaku Kpogo Ladzekpo
Dzogbona Kwaku Kpogo Ladzekpo belonged to Afavu, Yeve and Asafo/Akufede 45 groups. Before the body was brought back, Uncle Joe was telling a story about the day Kpogo died.46 Kpogo was telling stories the day he died. One story was about using a fishing net called asabu 47 to point to the direction the enemy was going to attack from. Then Kpogo was instructing one of his nephews in how to behave in his new appointment as head of his section of town. This man is blind and Kpogo wanted to be certain he was well coached in the proper protocol so as not to offend anyone.
Uncle Joe and Uncle Ben each went somewhere for a few minutes. Then one of Uncle Ben's son's came running and told them Kpogo had collapsed. They gave Kpogo some medicine and sent for a nurse at a nearby clinic. The boy that went used a bike and drove very fast. When the nurse arrived he examined Kpogo and pronounced him dead. They took the body to the mortuary in Keta and sent word to Accra and Ashiaman.48 These stories are an important part of a funeral. The older members of the community will have their memories refreshed by them and younger people will hear them for the first time. In this way the family, community and tribe's history is preserved in the memories of its members. Funerals are among the most likely events to feature storytelling.
Kpogo led a very active life in the community and therefore was due many honors of distinction at his funeral. He was a senior priest of the Afã cult and initiated many people into it. All of the people Kpogo initiated had to bring one bottle of gin and one duck. Because of Kpogo's rank they had to slaughter a he goat before receiving the body into the house. Kpogo had his 97th birthday just a few weeks before his death in 1992. Asafo/Akufede was played to receive his body. Kpogo was an elder member of his family so they were obligated to play the Badu family's signal drum for his funeral.49 He brought honor to his family, so in order to give
Dzogbçna Kwaku Kpogo Ladzekpo a distinction, the drum was decorated with skulls which were taken in battle by his ancestors. Warriors would do this to show their bravery. "Kaleto mexo tukpebi de dzime o akotae wo xo ne do." 50 This is an Anlo-Ewe proverb which states a hero does not receive a bullet wound in his back but rather in his chest. They chanted in Anlo-Ewe, the words mean: "Togbi has arrived, we welcome him."
Treve Segbedzi's son, Atsikpa played the lead drum. Ben K. Ladzekpo - who I know as Uncle Ben - did a dance in memory of Kpogo. This dance is a reenactment of a dance-story that Uncle Ben remembers Kpogo doing on a previous occaision. It is telling a story about his great grandfather being the founder of Anyako. He poured water into a skull and drank from it. Then he gave it to other members of the family. Next he challenges anyone who claims a different founder of Anyako to drink from the same skull. If anyone who has done evil things drinks from this skull they will die. The women chanted: "Asafoka 51 says he remembers Togbi Kpogo." While they played the Akufede drumming the women sang some Azenu songs.52
The wake started around 8:00 and Afã drumming was used. Where Kpogo was laid in state they sang Brittania 53 songs for him because he was a member of that group. One of the songs was about Livingston, Kpogo's cousin. The song is about Livingston's death and Kpogo is mentioned in it as one of the people who went to bring Livingston's body back home. Later on they also sang some Yevavo 54 and Adzomani 55 songs.
Dzogbona Kwaku Kogo Ladzekpo's funeral program on the day of burial involved music, dance and rituals performed by the members of the Afã and Yeve religions. A procession made its way to the place where Kpogo was laid in state. First the Yeve representative and then the Afã representatives knock at the door. Again only initiates of a certain rank are allowed to enter. While the initiates are in the room with the deceased, a ritual known as Amadede Gome is performed.56 Next the body was taken to the area where the Afã group was performing. Then the body was brought to the area where the Yeve group was performing. Several members of the Yeve house kneeled down on the ground with their hands behind their back and formed an ellipse around the coffin. Then a very long rope was used to bind their hands together. The coffin was struck seven times with a whip, then the head priestess of the house followed by the members who were tied up. They sang a song which means: "The time a leash is put on a goat is when it knows it has done wrong." The people are being whipped because they neglected to pray for Kpogo to live long thus causing his death. This ritual is only done for members of the Yeve religion who hold a high position.
After talking for a while to honor Kpogo they play brief versions of Kpegisu, Gadzo and Atsiãgbeko. Then they follow the casket with an Atsiãgbeko processional to the cemetery.
The same basic sequence of events occurs at all funerals but variations occur as a result of the deceased person's age, rank in their religion, and status as a community member. The day of burial is very important as several rituals and events must be performed to perfection to insure that the deceased is prepared to leave the world of the living. All of the religious and secular groups that the person belonged to will perform music and dance as well as rituals and ceremonies. A person who may have been poor in life by American standards of money very often will have a funeral which will cause them to appear to have been a very rich person by the same standards.
The day of burial and the preceeding reception and wake-keeping on the night before need to keep a strict program in order to satisfy the requirements of the deceased person's family's as well as that of the religious and secular groups they belonged to. Other events which are part of a funeral may involve music and dance. The entertainment at some of them is not determined by as strict a protocol as the day of burial.
One of them is the day after burial. In the old tradition members of the community will come by the home of the principal mourners and greet them with sympathies. This day is known as ndinamegbe in the Anlo-Ewe language. Presently the day after burial is also used to receive donations to the funeral budget. In the old tradition this would not begin to occur until approximately one week later. The reason for this is to accommodate people who travel from far away to attend the funeral and who have to leave shortly thereafter to return to work. In addition to a verbal greeting you might also arrange to have a group come and perform for a short time. The usual procedure involves consulting the elders before commissioning the performance.
Another event connected to death but not part of the actual funeral is a weed off ceremony. A weed off ceremony is a formal end of mourning. A woman whose husband has died must protect herself from the ghost of her late husband. She will wear a garment made out of a special cloth known as weed. After mourning for a certain amount of time she is washed with some herbs. After this she can dress in regular clothes and get married again if she wishes. Music and dance is performed at weed-off ceremonies.
In 1969, while watching a Takada performance, Kobla Ladzekpo noticed the supporting drummers changing in dialogues. In 1971 he noticed that they were not changing. Upon inquiry he learned that an elder had corrected the group at a funeral. His informant also told him that playing Takada without having the supporting drummers change during dialogues was the correct way.57 A group of younger musicians started the practice of changing. After an elder at a funeral instructed the group that the changes weren't correct they stopped playing them. Again an example of formal instruction at a funeral. This same event prompted my teachers to change the way they were teaching Takada to their students thousands of miles away in America.
My experiences at funerals together with stories about funerals I hear from my informants are the basis for gaining a deeper understanding of Anlo-Ewe music and dance in particular and Anlo-Ewe culture in general. I have found these funerals to be the best venue for experiencing traditional music and dance. I have also found them to be the most likely events to provide formal instruction in the same. These events feature transferance of the community's history and culturally are the most appropriate place to formally learn about the traditional Anlo-Ewe music.
©1996 Kevin O'Sullivan
ŠKevin O'Sullivan, All Rights Reserved