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Yale in Ghana
The Yale Percussion Group and Yale Concert Band traveled to Ghana in May, 2014 for twelve days of cultural exchange, musical research, and community service.
This marks the first time that the undergraduate Yale Concert Band (YCB), which in 1959 became the first college band to tour internationally, will travel with the graduate Yale Percussion Group. The two ensembles will perform several times, including “Unity” concerts at two universities and a joint concert with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana to benefit the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health.
The participants will also undertake service projects in the village of Yamoransa, with which Yale has an ongoing relationship. While based in Yamoransa, the percussionists will study, perform, and record traditional drumming and dance with Ghanaian drum masters.
One of the highlights was a benefit concert, conducted by Thomas C. Duffy, on Friday, May 23 at the National Theater in Accra. This joint performance, in which the Yale musicians performed alongside the National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana, will benefit the Ghana-Yale Partnership for Global Health. That initiative, announced in March, is a collaboration between Yale University, the government of Ghana, and other high-profile organizations to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Ghana.
Ghanaian and Yale musicians also took part in two Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concerts. The first was at the Univeristy of Ghana at Legon on May 22. Held in Legon’s outdoor amphitheater, the concert brought together the Music Department Pop Ensemble, University African Ensemble, Yale Concert Band, and Yale Percussion Group. On May 26, at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), the joint concert at UCC featured dances and traditional music with the UCC Dance Ensemble.
Other concerts included a performance at the United States Embassy on Thursday, May 22, hosted by Ambassador Gene A. Cretz. Here the travelers met participants in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), spearheaded by the Obama Administration to strengthen U.S.-Africa partnerships, and Ghana High School Scholars, who were able to talk to Yale students about attending college in the U.S.
Ghana has an extraordinary musical legacy, and the Yale Percussion Group (YPG) will be working with Ghanaian drumming masters to record and transcribe ancient drumming patterns. The YPG, which is directed by Robert van Sice, is comprised of the School of Music’s six graduate percussion students. They will study 8–10 types of drumming from different regions, including the villages of Oguaakuma, Waakron, and Eduma. The music includes dances for major life events, such as the christening of babies; dancing for more ordinary days, such as farmers’ and fishermens’ days off; and music accompanying storytelling, among other traditions.
These teaching sessions will be recorded on video in order to be transcribed. The material can then become the basis of further in-depth ethnomusicological study, and some of the Ghanaian drummers participating in the project have already expressed interest in using the videos in their university teaching.
Community Service & Cultural Exchange
In the village of Yamoransa, the musical ensembles will team up with the Yale Alumni Service Corps (YASC) and volunteers from Ashesi University (in Accra) and University Cape Coast in several ongoing projects. The combined teams will install 300 water filters in community buildings and homes; plant 1,000 trees, including 500 fruit trees; and continue ongoing work to construct the ICT (Information, Computer and Technology) Center. In addition, student musicians will share their music with students in five local schools, introducing themselves and the instruments they play.
Throughout the trip, the Yale students will visit museums and other cultural sites, and will learn about food production, fishing techniques and culture; and traditional crafts including fabric arts. Yale student will be paired with families in Yamoransa for home visits, and there will be joint social events for American and Ghana university students at both Legon and University of Cape Coast.
Schedule and Updates
Ghana Travel Highlights
May 21–June 1, 2014
May 22, 1:00 pm
Concert at U.S. Embassy
Hosted by Ambassador Gene A. Cretz
May 22, 6:00 pm
Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concert
at the outdoor amphitheater of University of Ghana at Legon. Featuring the Music Department Pop Ensemble, University African Ensemble, Yale Concert Band, and Yale Percussion Group
May 23, 8 pm
at the National Theater with National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana. Concert will benefit Ghana-Yale Health Initiative
Travel to Yamoransa
Traditional welcome ceremony and home visits
Nkonsonkonson “Unity” Concert
at University Cape Coast (UCC) with the UCC Dance Ensemble
Service projects in Yamoransa
including Pure Water Project, tree planting, music teaching, and ongoing construction of Technology Center
in Yamoransa and nearby regions
Durbar Harvest Festival
Closing ceremony in Yamoransa