Masquerade Adowa Dancers – by Agnes Gyening-Asiedu. (Part 1)

The two atumpan drums were hungry for the competition to start. They had to start drumming or else their tight skins would burst from all the excitement.

The master drummer called for the dawuru, “Dawuru Kofi, ma wo ho mbre so”. The man holding the two bells began the adowa beat:

Ke nke ke nke

Ke nke ke nke

The talking drums began in earnest:

Kudum Kudum

Kudum Kudum

Ku dan dan kudu

Ku dan dan kudu

Kudu

Kudu

Ku dan dan kudum

Ku dan dan kudum

The apetemma, the petia, the brenko and the donno, all of which formed part of the adowa instrument ensemble joined in the thrill. As soon as the full ensemble began to play, and the singers began to clap and sing, two masked adowa dancers stepped into the arena. One of them, male; the other, a female.

The female masquerade dancer moved her right foot forward, her left foot following on the next beat, each step corresponding with the rhythm from the dawuru. Wriggling her waist downwards, gently, like a true daughter of the Asante Kingdom (for which true female Adowa dancer did not wriggle their waist downwards when they danced?) and with her legs slightly bent, she shuffled elegantly, moved her hips gracefully, first to the right, then to the left, then up and then down.

With a flick of her forefinger, she beckoned seductively to the male masquerade dancer  to come and compete with her if he dared, after which she moved her shoulder smoothly, turned her hands beautifully in front of her body, twisted her neck like a doe and swung around. Then she did the most complex of dance moves – indescribable moves – with her legs, her hands and her head, and finally ended the first lap of the dance on her right foot.

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Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

As the male dancer swayed gently to the rhythm of the drums, he could not help but admire this charming adowa dancer who was as supple as a branch of neem tree. What exotic steps! How well she carried herself! She looked as vulnerable as a kitten and yet as arrogant as a peacock. And that appealed to him. A lot! Her wrists, which were adorned with gold ornaments were fleshy but not plump. Her skin colour was as golden as ripe pawpaw, exactly like his wife’s.

He looked at her ring finger and he was relieved to see that she did not wear one. He thanked his destiny that he had removed his own ring before setting off from home. He was going to win this one! After all, that thing he was in at the moment could no longer be called a marriage.

He had not intended to enter the competition but when he got to the dance grounds, his friends, who knew that he was an excellent dancer, had encouraged him to enter the contest. The moves of the female adowa dancer excited him, tickled his senses. He had to talk with her.

He shuffled smoothly towards her, then strutted like a cock, pulled out some brilliant adowa steps – solid, intricate and powerful legwork. Then he strode to the middle of the dance arena, swaggered briskly towards the crowd, turned his head, twisting his wrists one above the other, in the same direction as his head.

He spread his arms wide apart, proudly, and made as if he was pulling the entire kingdom to himself. Then he opened up his kente cloth to show off his broad hairy chest. He threw a corner of the kente on his left shoulder, leaving the other muscular, lean shoulder deliciously bare. He rushed towards the spectators, who broke into a sudden frenzied cheer. The male adowa dancer turned in his stride, sharply, and squatted in front of his dance partner. The the crowd went wild:

Dance! Dance! Dance!

The female dancer was awed at the show of strength by the male dancer. He was as agile as a deer and as regal as a monarch. She has never seen a man who carried himself this gracefully. Where was he six years ago when she was at her prime? She admired him silently from behind her mask, wishing that what she had at home was a man like this.

He danced towards her as soon as the drummers lowered the tempo of the drums, and he whispered in her ears, “You are beautiful. Are you from around here?”

What was she to say? She was in a mask anyway, and who would know that she was the one? It has been so long since she had such fun. She has forgotten what it felt like to be wooed, to be wanted. She was exhilarated.

She began to spin around him dreamily, sweetly, and did she spin so delightfully. She hopped rhythmically around him, first to the left and then to the right and then rocked her waist, softly. She spun around him again, closed her eyes and began her beautiful but complicated adowa pattern.

At first, she was as gentle as a baby breeze. Then she began to dance feverishly, as the drums heated up, daring the male dancer to compete with her.

adowa-2013

Image not mine. Image may be protected by copyright.

And then just when he began to spin back, to match her step for step, to jump into the air, she stopped dancing, looked straight at his mask as soon as his feet touched the ground again, and taking advantage of the lowered drum beats, she whispered:

“Dompease. I come from Dompease.”

“Nobody told me there was such a lovely dancer here in Dompease,” he whispered back.

The master drummer had noticed the chemistry between the two dancers, and so he began to communicate love messages through the drums:

Onua bεεma, wo pε obaa no anaa?

Brother, do you like the woman?

Kudum Kudum

The male dancer lifted his hand towards the drummer and hit his fist in his palms, to show that he was enjoying the drumming. The dancers began a more powerful pattern and the crowd went hysteric, for they have never seen such dance steps before, and they thought the dancers were spectacular, so they shouted:

Sa! Sa! Sa!

Dance! Dance! Dance!

Then the drummers beat their drums gently, once more, and she asked him where he was from. Was he from anywhere around? He wondered whether he should say yes but he knew he must be careful.

“No,” he replied, huskily. “I am from Kuntunase.”

“Oh, that far? You mean you have come all the way from Kuntunase just to partake in this dance?”

“I was invited by my friends. To watch the festival.”

Kudum Kudum

Kudum Kudum

Ku dan dan kudu

Ku dan dan kudu

Kudu

Kudu

Ku dan dan kudum

Ku dan dan kudum

(To be continued)

*

IMG_20200608_014635_489

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu, the writer of Masquerade Adowa Dancers.

Agnes Gyening-Asiedu loves to write.

Her story for children, Aku and Her Ice Cream, was published by African Storybook and facilitated by the British Council in Abuja, Nigeria.

Her first storybook for young adults, My Nightmare, won the 2017 CODE’s Burt Award for Ghanaian Young Adult Literature.

Agnes also loves traveling, cooking, sewing and reading.

She currently runs her own business, and lives in Accra, Ghana with her husband.

 

 

*

Love,

AishaIs.

– North Kaneshie; Early hours of Saturday, 8th June 2020.

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Disclaimer:

Featured Image and all other images in this blog post are not mine; images may be protected by copyright.

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