Nnwonkoro - A Female Song Tradition of the Akan of Ghana - Part 1





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Published on Feb 16, 2011

Nnwonkoro is a Female Song Tradition of the Akan of Ghana. "Abre" which is the beginning where the lead singer recites a long text without instrumental accompaniment or hand claps, sets the stage in this excerpt of Nnwonkoro performed by Onyame Akwan Nnwonkoro. According to the research and many conversations that I have conducted over the years, Nnwonkoro is an important music on the highest of levels with a poetic depth that some say are unparalleled. Only females sing these songs with men playing the accompanying musical instruments. Both male and female may dance to it's music.

Now, a very brief background;
There are several female song traditions of the Akan.
Mmobomme songs were sang to Nyame (the supreme being) and the Abosum (deities)
during war time, asking thus praying for the safe return from war of their men. Ose songs were sang when the men returned victorious from their battles. There are many other occasions in which women sing ose songs as they are songs of jubilation.
Nsaa Dwom songs of praise, were sang usually in the evening after a hard days work when some of the women gathered together. In the 1920's Mmobomme declined due to the fact that hostilities between the British and the Asante had reached an end (in 1905 Yaa Asantewaa was captured). Nnwonkoro was still primarily a recreational music with occasional use at funerals with Adowa at that time period being a primary music and dance form for funerary celebrations of Akan. Today it is one of the primary forms of music expression found in funerary celebrations and in other festivals in various Akan communities.

In 1944 the esteemed Nana Afua Abasa lead a Nnwonkoro group in Kumasi called "Tete Nnwonkoro". She remained lead singer until 2002 when she made her transition. Many recordings exist with her phenomenal voice. We will upload some footage that I shot in Ghana of the Manhyia Tete Nnwonkoro band soon.

The primary instruments used in Nnwonkoro vary from group to group, some of the instruments used are; Apreprensua (a large finger piano that is sat on while being played), Afirikyewa (a finger bell), Dawuruta (a double bell - idiophone), Adawura (a boat shaped bell) Notorowa (gourd rattles), Atumpan (male and female principal talking drums of the Akan) Apentema drum, and Kwadum drum which was added by Manhyia Tete Nnwonkoro at the request of the Asantehene.

An observation that I have made and one that has always interested my person, is about Nnwonkoro music and it's possible connection to Reggae music. In short, In Jamaica, West Indies the rumba box which is very similar to the Apreprensua, a large bass sounding finger piano, played a central role in Mento music. Mento lead into Ska music and Ska into Reggae. The Afirikyewa bell which not only keeps the time in Nnwonkoro but often plays on the upbeat, reminds me of the essential role of the rhythm guitar in Reggae. I could go on and on in regard to some of the opinions that I have thus reached regarding the cultural connections that have been passed down over the years through ancestral coding, but that may come later.

Deep Respect

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