Music, Dance & Ceremony
Music, Dance & Ceremony
In Ghana, music and dance are part of everyday life and will be heard and seen everywhere.
Music of Ghana
There are four main types of music heard in Ghana today: Contemporary music, Traditional music, Gospel music and Imported music.
♫ Contemporary music ♫
Contemporary music from Ghana is mostly comprised of 'Highlife' and 'Hiplife' musical styles as well as the newer and wildly popular Azonto and Azonto Plus, Alkayeeda inclusive. Highlife music was first recorded in the 1930's and reached its popular peak in the 50's through 70's. It takes a traditional percussive beat and fuses it with various European, American and Caribbean flavors. A.B.Crentsil, Nana Achempong, Rex Omar and Daddy Lumba are some of the well known performers of highlife.
Hiplife is a newer style of music that combines the Highlife beat with influences from American Hip-Hop and Rap. It is by far the most popular style of music among the younger people and can be heard blasting from many establishments. Popular artists include Kwaw Kese, Ofori Amponsah, VIP, Sarkodie, Praye, Castro and the recognized father of Hiplife, Reggie Rockstone.
♫ Traditional music ♫
While the style may differ between north and south, traditional music comprising of singing, clapping, drumming and dance are ritualized events occurring at funerals, ceremonies, festivals, weddings and other public and private gatherings. Drums and gong-gong are more prevalent in the south, while string instruments and the calabash are more used in the north.
At festivals and celebrations the music and dance will be a social ritual that tells a story or re-enacts an event of historical significance to the tribe. See our list of Festivals in Ghana for a large, but incomplete, list of festivals and celebrations held in Ghana during the year.
Here is a fun site to learn about how musical instruments work together in Ghana traditional music.
♫ Gospel music ♫
Ghana is a very religious country, and the music reflects this. You should feel welcome to visit any church service anywhere in the country. You would be warmly welcomed.
♫ Imported styles ♫
American Pop, Hip-Hop, R&B, and surprisingly Country are some of the most encountered contemporary music imports heard in Ghana in the larger towns and cities. Some contemporary French music will be heard closer to the Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso borders.
Reggae is by far the most popular non-American style and is heard everywhere. There are enormous Rasta parties at various locations, including Wednesday nights at La Beach, and Saturday nights in Kokrobite.
Styles of nearby countries can sometimes be heard, especially the closer to a border you are located. Mapouka from Cote d'Ivoire, Afrobeat from Nigeria, Griot and Mbalax from Mali - the list of styles goes on and on.
Inseparable from traditional music, the dance and ceremony that accompanies it is used to greet gods and spirits, to re-enact or tell a story or legend, or simply as a social recreation. These ceremonial dances may occur at funerals, celebrations, important historical dates and festivals.
There are simply too many rituals and dances to describe, but here are some of the major dances that you may encounter while in Ghana.
♪ Adzogbo ♪
Originally a war dance, now adapted as a social and recreational dance. Women begin the dance with Kadodo, a dance with elegant movement of the arms and taps and hops from the leading foot. Men follow in a series of energetic Atsia, performances which show their strength, dexterity and agility. This is a dance among the Ewe people in the Volta Region.
♪ Kple ♪
A religious dance from Greater Accra, this dance is performed by priestesses at shrines during the Homowo festival in late August & early September (see Festivals in Ghana). This dance is used to communicate with the gods and to bring blessings.
♪ Bamaya ♪
This is a dance of the Dagbamba tribe from northern Ghana. This is an outrageous display of men dressed as women in a dignified, graceful, and thoroughly campy celebration. It marks the end of a great drought that occurred in the 19th century and was ended when the men all dressed as women to ask the gods for help because prayers by women supposedly get a quicker response.
♪ Adowa ♪
This is sometimes referred to as the 'Antelope dance' because this dance mimics the jumping of an antelope. It is a recreational dance performed gracefully and athletically by men and women in Akan areas.
♪ Nmina ♪
This is a dance seen at social gatherings in the Northern region. It is performed by women singing praise to their creator and those who have help to raise them in life. The Calabash features prominently in this dance as a musical instrument as well as dancing accessory.
♪ Agbadza ♪
Performed by men and women accompanied by drums, rattles and gong-gong, there are two main movements: A slow step where the arms move back and forth while extended downwards, and a fast step where the arms flap at the side with elbows extended.
Ceremony in Ghana
Ghana is a country that celebrates life. In addition to all the normally scheduled festivals during the year, there are several rites and rituals that are performed to mark the passage of life: child-birth, naming ceremonies, puberty, engagement, marriage and death. To the majority of people, these celebrations provide all that is satisfying to their communities and families.
See Ceremonies in Ghana.
At community festivals, especially in the south, there will be exciting durbars of chiefs, when tribal leaders and Queen Mothers process in decorated palanquins, shaded by the traditional umbrellas, and supported by drummers and warriors discharging ancient muskets. See Festivals in Ghana.