Ghana is one of the countries in the sub-Sahara regions of Africa. It is located on the west coast of Africa, approximately midway between Senegal and Cameroon. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Burkina Faso, Togo, and the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 27,499,924 as at 2017.
Ghana is a country with a diverse cultural heritage. It holds its cultures in high esteem because her culture serves as a unifying force that binds all citizens and persons together. There are several unique cultures that are peculiar to Ghanaians. Ghana is made of different ethnic groups. The various ethnic groups in Ghana serve as custodians of these cultural heritage. The cultures are expressed in dances, music, foods, clothes, naming ceremonies, marriage rites, puberty rites, funeral, agriculture, architecture, folklores and others.
Traditional dance is one of the cultures that is patronized very much in Ghana. All ethnic groups in the country have dances that are performed by members within and outside of their enclave. Ghanaian dances are done during ceremonies, festivals, recreational activities, work and war especially during the precolonial and colonial era.
There are different dances performed by the various ethnic groups in Ghana. They include; Adowa, Kete, Bamaya, Bima, Boborbor, Kpalongo, Agbedza, Patsa, Homowo, Gome, Apatampa and the like.
The Adowa dance is performed by the Akan people in the southern part of Ghana who speak Twi as their native language. The Akan as the biggest ethnic group in Ghana has sub groups within it with a bit of differences in how they speak their language and do other things that are common to them. The Akan people comprise the following subgroups: Ashantis, Fantes, Akuapems, Bonos, Denkyiras, Ahafos, Ahantas, Akwamus, Akyems, Kwahus , Twifus, Nzemas, Sefwis Aowins, Assins, Wassas just to mention a few.
Oral history has it that, the dance originated in the early days of warfare when once the Great Queen of the Ashantis (Abrewa Tutuwaa) was sick and the only way to get her healed was through getting a life antelope from the wild to pacify the gods and make her well again as revealed by the chief priest. The delegation who went to get this antelope saw the outstanding and captivating movements of this antelope so they imitated and danced to all the household how the antelope exhibited such skillful moves on their arrival. The old women also imitated and improvised the moves hence becoming a famous and much adored dance amongst the ethnic group and it has been practiced till date. It was done by only women but men can also do it now.
The instruments used in a classical Adowa performance are an atumpan pair of ‘talking’ drums, petia, which is a tenor drum, apentemma, a supporting drum, dondo (hourglass drum), adawuraa (bell), trowa (made of gourd rattles) and rhythmic handclapping. There are usually two donno (hourglass drums) and one or two adawuraa in the ensemble (Arthur, 2006; Anku, 2009; Nketia, 1963; Rudell’s weblog, 2008).
The costume for the dance; the dancers usually adorn themselves in Kente, a woven patterned cloth made commonly the inhabitants of Bonwire a town in the Ashanti region. The occasion determines the type of Kente to be worn, funerals are usually black and white since it is a moment of mourning and grief. The cloth usually covers the breast area to the knee.
All other functions use colourful Kente cloth which shows royalty, wealth and status. The dancers adorn themselves with beads and golden necklaces. The beads are put on the wrist, ankles, knees and the neck. The ladies who have long hair cover them with black nets neatly wrapped on their hair. They also put golden band around their head to make them standout. Those without the long hair go by the Dansinkran style. This is when the dancers neatly dress their hair with black hair dye which usually make them beautiful and presentable.
The Adowa dance was originally performed by the Ashantis during funerals and festivals but due to modernity and cross-cultural adaptation, it can be performed by all ethnic groups in Ghana and even outside Ghana. In recent times, it is performed not only at festivities and funerals but also at all kinds of social occasions, state gatherings and other religious activities.
By Amankwah Sarfo Sarah, Ghana
Anku, W. (2009). Drumming among the Akan and Anlo Ewe of Ghana: An introduction. Of African Music: Journal of the International Library of African Music. 8(3), 38-64
Arthur, K. (2006). Reminiscence of ManhyiaTete Adowa: An original composition in contemporary idiom based on Adowa music of the Akans of Ghana. (Unpublished MPhil thesis in Music, University of Cape Coast).
Nketia, J. H. K. (1963). Drumming in Akan communities of Ghana. New York, Thomas Nelson
and Sons Ltd.
Rudell’s Weblog. (2008, May 7). The significance of the Ghanaian traditional dance: the case of
the Adowa Dance. [Online] Available: Rudell.wordpress.com.