Friday, 30 October 2015

I PLAYED PERCUSSIONS FOR THE LEGENDARY FELA KUTI (PART ONE) BY OLALEKAN ODUNTAN.


Just of recent, a colleague of mine in the Arts visited Nigeria from Ghana. This is a man we have done so much together musically all round the country. He is a musician, a percussionist, a teacher and the leader of a group known as DZENBII INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL GROUP in Ghana. He is no other person than Mr Daniel Koranteng Crentsil, a Ghanaian who has lived all his life here in Nigeria before retiring with the Center for cultural studies, University of Lagos as a senior cultural officer some years ago. He is here to share his sojourn into musical world over the years with us and his musical association with the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. These are the excerpts of the interviews i had with him before he travelled back to GhastuckQ : Good evening sir, Can we meet you Sir? 

A : My name is Daniel Koranteng Crentsil.

Q : I know that you are a guru in the music industry. Can you shed more light on this for us? 

A : Yes, i am a dancer, a percussionist and an actor.

Q : How long ago did it start? Where did you start? When did you start? Can you share your past experiences with us? 

A : It has been long. Right from 1965 when i joined the Ghana Young Pioneers while in secondary school in Accra, Ghana. At that time i joined a cultural group in the school where i learned how to dance to Panlogo music. Because that was the kind of dance in vogue at that time in Accra, Ghana. 

Q : By the way, what is Panlogo music?

A: Panlogo is a kind of dance that was created by a few of Ghanian boys in Accra back then. It is a moonlight dance. When some fishermen travelled from Accra to Badagry in those days, they decided to rest under a tree telling stories to themselves using sticks to strike empty can to make music and dancing to their sound. So a few Yoruba fishermen amongst them who saw what they were doing to the empty cans said "Panu yi rogo", meaning "Empty cans are suffering". It is the term "Panu yi rogo" that becomes Panlogo music today all over the world. So, when the Ghanian fishermen went back to Accra bearing in mind that they already had some dances like Ogeh and Numashi, they added some songs and decided to tag their dance and songs as Panlogo music. And that is how Panlogo music came to be. Then, the idea scattered all over the world and I was one of the best dancers of Panlogo music that time. It is a five beat rhythm, and it is this same five beat rhythm I learned, which guided me in playing the konga drums till today. 

Q : I know that you were with the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Can you share the memories of your association with Fela with us?

A : Yes, i was with Fela. We were friends. He used to come to Accra, Ghana occasionally. He was there 1965, 67, 68 and 69 before he travelled to U.S.A. We got to know ourselves by going to watch his musical shows whenever he and his band came to perform in Accra, and I was always participating in the dance on the floor. He had a lady dancer called Dele in the group doing the floor show for him while playing. 

I and Dele became friends. When they were not playing, we used to visit them in the hotel they were lodged then, and the hotel is called Pan African Hotel at Nimma in Accra. And whenever Fela was performing, we were always there to partake in the dance floor show, that is how I and Fela became friends. There was a time that a group of Ghanian musicians like the AIRPOLOS, the BARBEQUE, the SAINTS and the TRIFIX were having some shows and I was always going there to watch their shows and sometimes danced with them even though I had my own group called the Bugelu Dance Group comprising of five dancers back then. 

Because of my style of dancing that one of the groups called the TRIFIX saw, I was persuaded to join them which i later did. And i became a dancer and percussionist for the group. The promoter of the group was a Nigerian called Alhaji Shehu Zaria while Alhaji Ahmed his friend was the manager. So, as time went on, Alhaji Zaria said to the group one day, that most of all the pop and soul groups in Accra, Ghana had already gone on tour to Nigeria, and that he wanted to sponsor the group too to go on tour to Nigeria, and my name was added to the list go on the trip in 1969. 

So, we planned, we played some gigs and bought a volts wagon bus for the journey. And the group came on tour from Ghana to Nigeria. But there were problems on the road coming into Lagos because of the civil war still going on then. We eventually made it to Lagos amidst all odds on the roads. When we got to Lagos, we were staying at Agarawu street in Tinubu. The group became stuck in Lagos because of the war and all the members of the group became jobless. 

One day Alhaji Shehu Zaria saw us and we complained of our predicaments to him. He asked us of what kind of music could our group play. We responded by letting him know that we could play Highlife, Soul, Rock, Shashasha, Funk e.t.c .

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Join us in the second part of the interview.









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