I recently returned from Tamale, Ghana with Mohammed Alidu (Playing For Change Band talking drum/djembe player), and the entire PFC family should be proud of the Playing For Change Foundation’s latest accomplishment–building a music and dance school in Tamale, Ghana. The trip was a great success, and we had a very productive time breaking ground on Playing For Change’s “Bizung School of Music and Dance” located in Tamale, Ghana. For those of you that don’t know, Tamale is located in northern Ghana (12-15 hour bus ride from the capital, Accra), and is only a 2 hour drive from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Because of its close proximity to several other countries, Tamale is a melting pot of people, music and culture. In addition, Tamale’s rich traditions are still deeply rooted in its society. The PFC school will have students from diverse backgrounds, and thus, once again, demonstrating how music transcends our differences and brings people together through music.
While I could spend pages discussing this amazing trip, and our accomplishments, I thought I would touch on some of the highlights, and attach photos (because, as all of you know, a picture truly is worth a thousand words).
As some of you know, Mohammed Alidu is from Tamale, and his family has been living in the area for over 1,000 years (Mohammed’s family, “Bizung”, are the talking drum chiefs for the Dagomba tribe). Upon arriving in Tamale, Mohammed and I where met by his best friend, and brother, Abraman. Abraman is an expert dancer (specializing in traditional dance), and has previously been invited to dance throughout Europe, and currently is the director for the Tamale Youth Home that teaches traditional dance. Currently, the Youth Home is the only location in all of Tamale where children can get together to learn and practice their dances. Abraman has also generously donated his time to be our “on the ground” point person for the building of the school. Mohammed, Abraman and I drove to the proposed building site, and met with the builder for the project, also named Mohammed. After we met with Mohammed at the school’s location (the land for the school was generously donated to the PFC Foundation by Mohammed Alidu), Abraman spread word throughout the community that we would be breaking ground on the school the following Monday (three days later). That Monday morning we had over 30 volunteers assist us with digging the foundation and pouring the concrete. We also had several volunteers (Alidu’s mother and sisters) cook us our feast of rice, yams, and goat (the local delicacy of goat kebabs and goat’s head soup–very spicy and delicious). Because of the amount of volunteers, and their diligent work, we were able to complete the foundation in only one day. This task would ordinarily take a week to complete. One of the volunteers who came out that day is named Prince Mohamma. Prince is an expert xylophone, keyboard/piano, guitar and bass player and has agreed to teach at the school. Prince is blind (an incredible musician, but even more impressive person).
Needless to say, the community’s support for the school is astounding. Although Tamale is the third largest city in Ghana, and the largest in the northern region, there are little or no opportunities for the children to learn, and practice, their traditional song and dance. Accordingly, the PFC school will provide the children with such an opportunity. In addition, the children are extremely excited about the opportunity to learn western style music and incorporate these styles into their traditional music.
I think one story that really captures both the attitude and generosity of the people of Tamale involves the builder, Mohammed. Once Mohammed Alidu told the builder (Mohammed) what the PFC Foundation does, and why we are building the school in Tamale, the builder agreed to reduce his overall fee (only a couple hundred dollars in the US, but a significant amount in Northern Ghana) to help the Foundation build another school in another location (the “pay it forward” philosophy). There truly were countless selfless acts by the community of Tamnale, and the gratitude that the people have towards the Playing For Change Foundation is endless. The PFC Foundation’s music school in Tamale will not only provide the children a safe environment to learn music and dance but also will ensure that the children of Tamale will have with the opportunity to share their culture and music with other children from around the world. Most of the children have not heard of Nepal, but as a result of the school they will have an opportunity to not only learn about Nepal but also play music with the children of Tintale, Nepal (from Tamale to Tintale!!)
Please stay tuned for more updates on the progress of our music school in Tamale, and thanks again for all of your support!
Peace & One Love