COPYRIGHT CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
INTERVIEW WITH FRED DONO:
LET'S BEGIN WITH SOMETHING EASY. TELL ME WHAT MUSIC IS FOR YOU.
Ah music to me is life, spirit, soul and happiness. That's music to me.
WHAT AGE WERE YOU WHEN YOU LEARNED HOW TO PLAY THE DRUM?
I can say the drumming are inherited because I started very young. I start ...... I was 5. And ah they made me a small drum .... Then I sat behind them doing my own thing. At the age of 9, I started playing the big tall drum called achimavu. That is master drum. In fact that was that came just almost .... because the master drummer who was to play the drum went to school and we have to do some celebration for a religious dance. There is a celebration and they need a drummer. So I jump up, try to do my own thing and .... the first one to stop me but when they saw that I'm on the track, they were happy and they put blocks up for me to reach the top of the drum. That's how I started drumming at the age of 9, I started drumming.
TELL ME NOW HOW MUCH THE DRUM IS PART OF RELIGION IN YOUR CULTURE?
The drum drum and religion okay drum if I can say music and religion are inseparable. You can't separate them. They are one. They move together. We feel God work through music than anything else. So religion and music can't be separated.
WHAT ABOUT COMMUNITY?
COMMUNITY, ALL THE PEOPLE.
Yeah. In Africa, or let's say in Ghana especially my tribe, everybody takes part in drumming and dancing. So when we go for a performance or there is a drumming we see all the people almost all the people taking part in it.
WHEN YOU WERE PLAYING TODAY YOU WERE VERY HAPPY.
Ah music, as I have already said, is happiness. I feel happy when I'm playing music because it makes me forget everything especially anything which worries my mind. When I'm playing .... even if I'm sick, if I'm sick, I always play music. Sometimes the sickness go away entirely. So music is happiness to me as I've already said.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHAT WESTERN CULTURE, EUROPEAN CULTURE DID TO RHYTHM. THEY KIND OF THEY KICKED RHYTHM OUT OF THE BACK DOOR AND MADE IT NOT VERY IMPORTANT IN THE MUSIC EVEN THOUGH OF COURSE IT'S IN THE MUSIC ALL THE WAY BUT IT'S NOT IT'S NOT LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD.
THEN WHEN EUROPEANS CAME TO AFRICA THEY WANTED THE NATIVES TO STOP PLAYING.
I can say that Western music, what I've seen about it is that one thing, they haven't got a rhythm on which they build the music. They have to get a beat which will be part and parcel of every instrument. But that is not the case. All right, in the Western world too all they do is they respect I mean paper the paper in front of them more than the instrument which ... is no good. Because if you do away with that, it's something if you need it you can't do it. The song I'm going to sing is the instrument. You know it in your head. It's a matter of practising it and you can avoid the paper and concentrate on your music. But there is a way or there is a thing, you see them respecting the paper in front of them more than the instrument they are holding. And there will be a time maybe you are going to a place and all of a sudden that paper gets lost. Your instrument is with you. You get the instrument all right and the people are going to do a concert. The people are already around and the paper is not there, the instrument is there. Okay, right now the instrument will tell you, well now I am here, go on play your paper. You get what I mean? So something they can in fact I know I believe they can really change.
I THINK IT
They can really change it.
I THINK IT'S CHANGING. YOU SEE PEOPLE PICKING UP AND LEARNING HOW TO PICKING UP THE AFRICAN DRUM OR PICKING UP THE INDIAN DRUM HERE AND LEARNING HOW TO PLAY IT.
IT'S STARTING TO CHANGE, I THINK.
Because the instrument is your brother, your friend, you good friend. You talk to the instrument and if you give a good talk he'll be happy to give you good answer. So you have to concentrate on the instrument, not the paper. So I think we have to change it.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN YOU LISTEN TO INDIAN DRUMMING? HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU'RE LISTENING TO INDIAN DRUMMING?
Yeah. Indian drumming I feel they also have a rhythm upon which they build their instruments. Every instrument goes around that beat. So I think their drumming is good.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT HOW MUSIC IS CENTRAL TO YOUR CULTURE IN GHANA, YOUR RELIGIOUS CULTURE. I NEED TO GET A SENSE OF HOW MUCH IT OF HOW CONNECTED THE CULTURE IS AND THE RELIGION IS WITH THE MUSIC. SO GIVE ME A LITTLE BIT EXAMPLES ON DAILY LIFE IN YOUR CULTURE SO THAT I CAN UNDERSTAND HOW RELIGION AND MUSIC ARE CONNECTED.
Okay. To put it this way, we have about three types of I mean dance dances. We have war dances, religious dances and recreational dances. And religion, as I said, religion and music cannot be separated. For example, you use music and singing that is ..... music is drumming and singing. That is music, all combined to form music. The music to send ..... people to spiritual world, .... to spiritual world. And if you send that fellow to spiritual world the fellow will be there until the leaders of the spirit do some customs before he can come back to human .... So we use music for healing too, you see. You connect music with healing. But actually music is not religious at all, is something who can heal. If you are disturbed or you are worried something worries your mind and you go to a place where music is being played, that particular time you forget about your worries. So music, as I can say, is a healing instrument.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU USE MUSIC TO SEND PEOPLE TO THE SPIRIT WORLD, WHAT DO THEY DO IN THE SPIRIT WORLD?
Okay. The fellow never disappear from you but he's action sure that he's gone to spirit world. And sometimes this become when they go to spirit world, you see them using a very sharp knife to cut themselves. But I mean it doesn't do anything to them. Even some people you see them talking different language which all in the ..... of that spirit and that time. That mean the spirit communicate through that fellow to the elders..... to get them instructions to do what they have to do. I see some people when they go to spirit world they will use fire. Take their hand to collect fire, put to their I mean on ...... But they don't feel it. They don't feel anything. That is how you know the fellow has gone to spirit world. There are so many kinds of, I mean spirit world which they go.
IS THAT ALSO PART OF THE HEALING PROCESS SOMETIMES? SOMEONE WHO IS VERY SICK?
Somebody who is very sick doesn't go to spirit world. Sometimes some people we have so many types of religion. Some do go to spirit world, some don't go. Some religion members don't go to spirit world. But when sick if somebody goes to spirit world the gods will talk to that fellow to show the way that fellow, the sick can be cured. So it's not the sick go to the spirit world.
SO IT'S RATHER THE PERSON WHO HEALS THE SICK WHO GOES TO THE SPIRIT WORLD TO LEARN HOW TO CURE THE PERSON.
OKAY. I'M PRETTY HAPPY. I WANT TO GET YOUR REACTIONS. WHEN YOU SAW THOSE YOUNG PEOPLE DANCING TODAY, I KNOW HOW I FELT. I'M A LITTLE BIT OLDER BUT STILL IT MADE ME FEEL GOOD. CAN YOU JUST TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR REACTION TODAY.
When saw them dancing I wasn't surprised because everybody is having a music spirit within him or her. Everybody having I mean spirit I mean musical talent music talent. It's only up to the fellow to develop it. At the beginning of my speech I say music is spirit, is soul. So that kind of spirit and the soul is within every individual. Because of that, if you go to I mean concert of music is being played, you see the fellow doing the head like this or something like or putting the leg, the hand do something like that. That means the music, the spirit that spirit music spirit within him or her forcing them to do that. So as I know, everybody is having that kind of spirit. When I'm playing, somebody is dancing, I don't become surprised because I know the fellow is having it, has it.
One thing too in Africa, especially Ghana as I know it or I can say in Africa, we don't encourage woman to play drum. It is not a taboo but we the men don't encourage them to play drum. It is now that women are getting to know that they have to play drum. For example, ... Kathy Armstrong went to Ghana to study under me. In fact, she surprised all the women and the men because she can play very well, even the master drum. And she is a really serious and wonderful drummer. And I think you saw her today playing. I'm sure in time to come she will I mean do something in Canada and if I'm not mistaken, in the whole U.S. she will surprise everybody if she continues like that. So she is the most serious woman drummer I ever have.
AS A STUDENT.
Yes, as student.
WHY IS IT THAT WOMEN AREN'T ENCOURAGED TO DRUM IN AFRICA?
Ah I just don't know why our forefathers did that. Maybe they feel women have to be at the kitchen or do the housework and the men have to drum. And the women just have to sing and dance for them and they have to do the drumming. I think that is the reason why but I don't actually know why they did that.