ASANTE CULTURAL ELEMENTS
Music is essential to Asante life. It is of course , the same for all Ghanaians and all Africans. In Asante , whatever you are doing can be musicalised. So there is music for farming , music for hunting , music for fishing , music for weeding, music for mourning , royal music , joyful music , war music , religious music , celebration music , victory music , initiation music and what have you.
The Asante’s identifies three types of music : Oral , Instrumental and Corporeal.
Oral music is produced by the voice. It can be in the form of singing or recitation or shouting or humming ,etc.
Secondly, Instrumental music is produced with different contrivances . The instruments are of four different types . Idiophones are percussion instruments made entirely or naturally resonant materials. They vibrate when hit . Aerophones are instruments into which you blow air to produce the sound . Among such instruments are the Flutes, Bugle , Horns , Trumpets , etc.
Lastly the Chordophonic instruments. These are the instruments which have strings on them like guitar , the violin , the zither , the piano and so on . Probably the most commonly used type of instruments in Asante are the membranophones . These are musical devices that have the skin of animals on them . In each group , the instruments have names- the Atumpan ( the twin drums) , the Fomtomfrom ( another twin drums , much longer and bigger than the Atumpam) , the Donno is the armpit drum , the Patia ( a smallish drum played with the hand , the Apentema ( a drum slightly bigger than the Patia but played with two sticks) , the Aburukwa ( a much bigger globe -like drum played with two curved sticks ) , the Dawuro( a gong made with iron , which resonate upon being hit ) , the Atenteben ( a flute made from the branch of a bamboo tree ) , the Ntorowa ( an instrument made from a small gourd filled with dry seeds , which is shaken to produce a rhythmic sound ) , the Prempensiwa ( a wooden rectangular box on which flat soft metals are fixed to produced rhythmic sound when clicked . It is an idiophone) and many others form a kind of reservoir of musical instruments to choose from to suit the occasion.
Thirdly , we have Corporeal music ; in this the musical sound is produced by using parts of the body , like clapping , stamping on the floor , hitting tights , clicks etc .
In Asante, they used all three types of music although singing would take the pride of lace , followed by drumming . These types of music are grouped into bands, orchestras or ensembles . The voice may be used alone or in conjunction with the body or with instruments . There is instrumental music by itself or music produced instruments and the voice or by instruments , the voice and the body . There is also an exclusively bodily music , without the use of the voice or instrument, although such music is very rarely used.
Whatever the type of music is , dancing goes hand in hand with it . Dancing is expressive . It is never just a meaningless movement of the body . It is kind of language speaking to those who understand it in different situation . Asante’s used dancing to praise, to express gratitude , to show disappointment , sorrow , bereavement , dependability , dependence , to abuse and so on . Often the dancer talks to the crowd or to the drummers , the drummer talks to the dancers and the spectators, whilst the spectators may direct the dancer and the drummer along the way they want things to go . There are about 23 different forms of Asante ensembles .
We can only mention a few : KETE , ADOWA, MPINTIN, FONTOMFROM , DANSUOMU, APELE, SAKYI, NNWOMKORO ETC.
The KETE is a royal band . In the past ,only the Asantehene or those permitted by him could possess the Kete dance. It is an entirely instrumental music normally used when the king is sitting in state. It comprises of six instruments . The Akwadum( a big drum with wide cylindrical body played with two hard sticks) is the lead instrument. The others are the Petia , the Apentema , the Aburukwa and the Donno( all membranophones ). The Dawuro ,which gives the pace of the music , is an idiophone and that is made of cast iron. The Asantehene , in addition , has a seventh instrument , namely , the Atentenben , an aerophone . Now the kete band is used in all ceremonies .
The ADOWA is an all -weather orchestra. It is used for entertainment or during funerals and on all occasions . It comprises of the Atumpam ,which is a set of twin drums , the Apentima , the Petia , the Nnawuta ( which is two ) , and two Donno . Singing forms a very important part of Adowa drumming . The Adowa is , therefore ,a voice cum instrument band.
The MPINTIN is a royal band which accompanies the chief Or the king when he is walking to a debar ground . It is only used by the King and paramount chiefs . It comprises of three types of Donno , four wide cylindrical drums played by hands , two lead tall drums called “gyamadudu” which is hit with a club to produce a sound to provide the require pace. The lead drum request the king or paramount chief to walk majestically or to stand . It is always played by the royals of the king or paramount chief only .
The FONTOMFROM is a another royal band comprising the two big and tall drums together with the two “Atumpan ( talking drums ) , the two ” Dawuro ” and the Donno ( armpit drum ) . It is only used by the king and his chiefs . It is also used in derbars and funerals of kings and chiefs . It is also used to accompany the king when he is riding in a palanquin .
The DANSUOMU is a music produced by hitting a big gourd that is placed in a basin of water to produce a very unique sound . It is also instrumental and at the same time vocal . It is normally played together with the Adowa band or the nnwomkoro band to creat a very different unique tunes .
The NNWOMKORO is an orchestra that consist of singing , clapping and drumming . The drums are Donno , Apentima , Feretwua, Dawuro and a special drum with a idiophonic instruments attached . It is also played in funerals and derbars .
Apart from music , a symbol is something that stands for a truth or a reality that otherwise is very difficult to conceive in concrete terms . Symbols represent abstract reality , not concrete things . You cannot have a symbol of table ; but you can have a symbol of obedience . The Asante’s have their symbol that stand for all kinds of values and concrete realities . Asante’s do have symbols for God,s power ( Gye Nyame) , Hope ( Biribi wo soro, ma me nsa kwa) , Sanity ( Krapa ) , Strength ( Dwenin mmen ) , Courage ( Hye-wo-a-enhye) , Authority ( Akofena / Afena ), Unity ( Funtumfunafu ne Denkyemfunafu ) , Reconciliation ( Mpatapo ) , Wisdom ( Nyansapo; Mate masie; Ntesie ).