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The beat goes on…

by Jacqueline Gunn, KF13. Christian Rural Aid Network, Cape Coast- Ghana

One of the first things I noticed about living in Ghana is the ebb and flow of sound. It feels like Ghana is living by a constant rhythm which is created in every household, on every street and every road.

Where I live is pretty rural- a walk away from the nearest road and along a dirt track which constantly changes due to the weather. Even though we are a way away from town, we are never missing some kind of sound. The goats we live with constantly bleat, the insects provide a high pitched background to life and at night at around 11pm the dogs in the area howl together- loudly. When there is a rainstorm, there really is a rainstorm and the sound of the thunder is so loud that the buildings shake and vibrate alongside it. Once the rainstorm has passed, it’s the turn of the resident frogs and toads to pipe up and croak through the night.

At work people like to talk loudly. Ghanaians are animated people and there is constant chatter, loud laughs and jokes being made. The CRAN driver Jomo comes into the Kiva office on a regular basis singing songs to himself whilst waiting for the next person who needs to be driven. Every morning we have a half hour devotion where the whole office sings and prays together.

Visits to the field can be noisy too. When you arrive in a village you can hear bells ringing as the ladies walk around selling their wares carrying the goods on their head (a traditional Ghanaian style). The beginning of repayment meetings are marked with either a chant or a communal song to call the attention of the borrowers. There’s often what I would class as an argument being shouted in lively Fante…the borrowers and the loan officers have smiling faces though and I think it’s all ok. The women of Ghana create their own rhythms pounding cassava and plantain in wooden dishes to make the local dish “fufu”. A proportion of CRANs borrowers in Ghana sell this local dish or its ingredients.

When you walk around town there a rush of sound too. Market sellers shouting out and selling their wares, children playing and singing, religious services being held in buildings and the sounds of preaching pouring out of the door for all to hear. Turn a corner and you will see 12 huge speakers piled up ready to blast out music- there’s no sound police here. Even Barclays wants in on the fun. You know you are a long way from home when a bank sets up a street-side disco to get new customers!

On Friday and Saturday nights, local drumming groups put on performances at the restaurant in town and the rhythm of Ghana continues. As you walk along the roadside tro-tros slow down and when they pass the tro-tro mate shouts “AccraAccraAccraaaaa”, or “TakradaaaayyyyTakradaaayyyyy” to solicit custom for the journey. As a white person, walking down the street unnoticed is impossible and children sing “Obruni, how are you, Im fine, how are you” on a constant loop. Obruni means foreigner. Ghanaians love ring tones too, and have their phones set loudly to play either Ghanaian hip-hop or Christian songs (some just have “Jesus loves you, God loves you” in spoken word as their ringtone). I’ve not yet mentioned the sounds from traffic either – beeping your horn is a national sport here.

I didn’t expect to be surprised by the sounds of Ghana, but this constant rhythm is interesting and new. Only occasionally do I wish I had brought earplugs!

Click to view slideshow.

Jacqueline Gunn is currently dancing a lot whilst serving as a Kiva Fellow at Christian Rural Aid Network in Cape Coast in Ghana.

If you would like to experience the rhythms of Africa firsthand, consider becoming a Kiva Fellow and find out more here.

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