Article Synopsis: Drums have deep roots in the history of Ghana and are believed will bring luck to their national team. Dressed in colourful dresses, drummers play celebration melodies for the whole 90 minutes which helps players be in full confidence to win.
Ghana is known as the ‘Gateway to West Africa’ and on the football front when you pass through the gateway you are greeted immediately by the beat, beat, beat of the country’s so-called “Talking Drums.”
Before during and after any game, it is the sound of drums that is as likely to stay with you just as much as a brilliant passage of play would.
The instruments won their title of “Talking Drums” because the fervour of the drums communicates what is happening on the field. And when the din and beat reach a crescendo one can imagine the drummers are trying to communicate with the juju spirit to come to the aid of the Ghanaian national team – The Black Stars!
The drums and drummers were out in force when Ghana beat Sudan to become the first African team to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Dressed in a yellow Ghanaian jersey, Mohammed Abulsamduhe was among the supporters who played his Jembe and Pamlogo. He beats the drums so loud and with such energy it is as if he were using the drum to help the Ghanaian players win the game.
“When I hear the drums I feel so happy,” says Mohammed Abulsamduhe, not missing a single beat on his drum while I talked to him. “It fills my heart with pride and I sing louder for my country’s team.”
Like many in Ghana, Abulsamduhe learned to play drums as a boy from his friends and family. He practised by watching other drummers at football games, practicing to emulate the intricacies of their rhythms.
Abraham Boakye, president of the Black Stars supporters club, is another dedicated drummer. “The sound of the drums inspires the players to greater effort,” says Boakye. “It gives them enthusiasm and motivation to win the game.”
When Boakye plays his drum, he gets so lost in the rhythms that he sometimes misses important scenes on the field. He may not notice when a goal is scored or when a penalty is given. But, because he believes his drum helps them win, he doesn’t seem to mind not seeing those moments.
“It is always fascinating,” says Stephen Appiah, captain of the Ghanaian national team. “The drum players enable us enjoy the game when we are out there on the pitch. It motivates us! ”
Enoch Aidoo, an electrical engineer, has played drums at football games since 1996 and travels a lot with the national team outside Ghana. He believes the drums can also soothe the passions of supporters of rival teams.
Ghanaians have a long history with drums. According to David Amoo, Artistic director of the Ghana national dance ensemble under the University of Ghana, Ghanaians have used drums since the 12th century for war, marriage, funerals, rituals, before going fishing and farming and even during elections.
“Even before we built these big stadiums, people used to play their drums in the villages to support the local football game”, Amoo says.
Ghanaians have five types of drums which are played differently. Two of the drums, Jembe and Kpammlong, are palm drums played by one individual. The other one, Gome, needs both the leg and the hand. When Gome players start to play, other drummers will stop playing. The others Maracash (Shaker) and Xylophone are types of pentatonic instruments and tend not to be used in the stadia.
Drums also differ in price depending on the type of wood they are made of and their size. The average size could cost about 45 cedis (about US$31) while a smaller rendition could cost 10 cedis (about US$6.90). Peter Dremani, a businessman who sells drums in the Accra Art Centre, says the price also differs depending on the type of wood they are made of. “Drums made of Shibota oil tree and Oasase are considered to be good types and they can cost 1,500 cedies (about US$1035),” Dremani says.
Ghana is divided into three distinct ecological zones – North Belt, Middle Belt and Coastal Belt. The three parts have different types of wood that are commonly used for drum making. The North Belt uses Shea-Butter and Mahogany trees, the Middle Belt Chinnibua wood, and the Coastal Belt uses Kujoco, Cocono and Barrels trees for creating distinctively Ghanaian sounds.
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