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Christian Kofi Mawuko, a native of Ghana, performs Ghanaian drum and vocal music throughout the Southeast with his group Mawre & Co.  He plans to teach Ewe drums (kangahu, kidi, kroboto), Kpanlogo drums (mei), cowbells (gakokui) and shakers (ahatse) to his African American apprentice, who currently plays the drum set for Mawre & Co.  Mawuko explains, “The Ewe people are spread along the coastal areas of Ghana, Benin and Togo. I am going to teach Gota rhythm, which is used for social dances that are performed at wedding, parties, funerals and social gatherings.  The Ga people are the natives of Accra, the capital of Ghana.  My apprentice will learn the Kpanlogo rhythms of the Ga tribe, as well as the history of these two tribes and the background of their rhythms.”  Demarland Dean, the apprentice, already has a deep familiarity with Ghanaian music. He notes, “I’ve always wanted to learn the African drums since I first started playing with Kofi over 10 years ago.  He is by far the best person I’ve seen – and you may as well learn from the best. African music is important to preserve and pass on because it’s the basis for all other music.” West African music, especially percussion, is the founding bedrock for many musical forms that developed in Tennessee including blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, rock and roll, and influencing old-time, bluegrass and country as well. Mawuko and Dean plan a public performance at the Bessie Smith Culture Center towards the end of their work together.

Interview:

Christian Kofi Mawuko, Master Artist

What traditional art form are you teaching?

I am teaching Ghanaian drum rhythms from the Ewe and the Ga tribes in Ghana.  The Ewe people are spread along the coastal areas of Ghana, Benin and Togo.  I am teaching my apprentice the Ewe Gota rhythm, that is played for a social dance performed at every social gathering, such as weddings, parties, and funerals.  The Ga people are the natives of Accra, the capital of Ghana.  I am also teaching the Kpanlogo rhythms of the Ga tribe.  He’s learning how to perform these rhythms on Ewe and Ga drums and also about the history and background of the two tribes and their rhythms.

How did you learn this skill? Who taught you? How long have you been practicing it?

I learned at age 10 from Mr. Amankwah Ampofo.  I was selected to perform with the Kyirem Cultural Troupe of Ghana, a popular children’s group that appeared on TV and performed at international festivals.  I also toured Europe with another Ghanaian group, Kalifi, in the mid 1980s.

Why do you believe that it is important to preserve and pass down this art form?

It’s very important to preserve and pass it on to the next generation, to teach especially African Americans in this country the roots of their heritage and culture, to be proud of who they are and where they come from.

What is the importance or role of this art form in your community? Where do you share your art form with others?

The importance of this art form is self respect, to respect our elders, families, our culture, and everyone in the community.  I have performed Ghanaian drumming at festivals, churches, family gatherings, concerts, exhibitions and public events in Chattanooga, Atlanta, Manchester, and Nashville.

Have you taught before?

I have over 40 years of experience teaching African drumming and 25 years as a teaching artist in K-12 schools, universities and community college.  I am the founder/leader of Mawre & Co., an African drumming and dance company, and of Ogya World Music Band, both based in Chattanooga.

Tell us about your apprentice.

I have known my apprentice for 10 years now.  He’s the regular trap set drummer in my Ogya World Music Band.  He is dedicated, reliable, hard working and a committed person to work with.

Demarland Dean, apprentice

What is the traditional art form you are learning? How did you become familiar with it?

I am learning traditional Ewe and Ga rhythms from Ghana on the African drums.  I became familiar with African drumming over 10 years ago when I first heard Kofi and started playing with him.

How long have you been practicing this traditional art? Who taught/influenced you?

I have been playing the American part of Ogya World Music Band – the drum set – for over 10 years.  I’ve always wanted to learn and play the African part since I first started playing with Kofi over 10 years ago.  Kofi Mawuko has definitely been my main influence and sparked my interest in this art.

What are your goals while working with this master?

He is by far the best person I’ve seen at playing the djembe and other West African drums. If you’re gonna learn something, you may as well learn from the best.  My main goal is to learn how to count the rhythms.  So much of this is feel, but if I learn to count it as well, it would make me a stronger player.

Why do you believe it is important to pass this tradition on?

Music is very important to my family and ethnic group, it connects us to memories and events in our lives.  African music is important to preserve and pass on because it’s the basis for all African American music.

How are you sharing this tradition with the public and how will you pass it down yourself?

We plan on performing in Chattanooga and surrounding areas.  After this apprenticeship, we will present a portion of the show strictly for traditional African drumming only.

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