A conversation with Ghanaian drummer Koffie Fugah…
You note that you love sharing music as an expression of joy. How did music and dance become the place that you have found the most joy?
Joy is something we all love to share and multiply when we find it. Through music I got to be around a group of people who are all sharing their joy and doing something I also love. When we are playing music there is no room in our minds for worry or distraction, naturally we find ourselves in the moment and there is joy in those moments of pure creativity.
You are also a storyteller. What kinds of stories do you like to share most?
When I am teaching, I tell stories which relate to whichever song/rhythm/dance we are learning. There are rhythms (with accompanying songs and dances) for almost every aspect of life; welcoming the fishermen home, puberty celebrations, sending a search party and many more. I also enjoy passing on some traditional African proverbs and parables when they find the right occasion.
How long have you been drumming, and how did you move into teaching and sharing your drumming with a wider audience?
I started playing all kinds of drums at the age of 9. I was a part of a group from a young age and we regularly performed at community events and large parties. Sometimes we were invited to take part in larger events and a few I attended were the Pan African Historical Theatre Project( PANAFEST), National Festival of Arts and Culture( NAFAC), and International Children’s Arts and Cultural Festival( KIDDAFEST) I started to teach in schools and run adult classes while I was still living in Ghana.
Koffie travels the length and breadth of New Zealand offering West African drum workshops, which are on hold right now. COVID notwithstanding, we could not resist sharing this video of Koffie in earlier times with the hope his schools will soon return to lift our spirits and offer ways for us to dance back our world.
Can you share a bit about working in schools? What is the most gratifying thing about reaching out to young people through music?
I love working with children. They are not as shy as adults and I can often make fast progress with them because they take on new ideas quickly. The best part about teaching music to children is the transformations. Some children I only see for a couple of hours but I can tell their energy has been lifted and they are inspired. Sometimes I hear them talking excitedly about the dance they just learned
And how has living through 2020 impacted your own expression? How did you manage with lockdown?
My focus has changed this year from outward to inward focused. I have been spending time creating new music instead of performing at events and running workshops. The change has been refreshing and given me time to explore new ways of expression in a way I would not have found time for without the lockdown.
Do you think writing, playing and performing music in 2020 is all the more important, given the restrictions we feel on our lives? What has occupied your time and energy this year?
I think it is always important to stay connected to other people. I was involved with some free online classes during lockdown in an effort to help members of our community feel encouraged and uplifted. Music gives people the opportunity to have a group experience and is not reliant on proximity to facilitate that. I think that at this time more people are discovering the importance of music, but it has always been very important!
Sharing the rich culture of my continent, Africa, through songs, drumming and dance with children, youth and adults in communities across NZ has occupied my time and energy this year.
Koffie Fugah is a master drummer, dancer and story-teller from Ghana. He has been performing and teaching traditional African songs, dance and drumming for over 20 years. In 2013 he migrated to New Zealand. After arriving in New Zealand, he founded the Kadodo West African Drum and Dance School. For the past 5 years, as Kadodo’s Artistic Director, he has been facilitating drum and dance workshops for school, community and corporate clients all over New Zealand. His life-long passion is sharing the love of his culture with people and encouraging them to use music to express themselves joyfully. He loves working with everyone, from children to adults. His website provides a vast library of images and videos to complement his introduction, please take a look here