Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra, VoxLox 3 DVD, 2009
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Three films by Steven Feld about jazz cosmopolitanism in Accra.
Producer and Video: Steven Feld
Editor: Jeremiah Ra Richards
Location Sound: Nana Agazi, Steven Feld
Still Photographs and Associate Producer: Nii Yemo Nunu
Archival images courtesy Afrikan Heritage Library, Anya Arts Library, Kotopon Afrikan Images.
Film 1: Hallelujah! (60 minutes)
Filmed in 2005, Hallelujah! presents an African talking drums version of Georg Friedrich Händel’s Hallelujah chorus, as staged and performed by legendary drummer Ghanaba together with the Winneba Youth Choir. Ghanaba's unique approach to Händel mixes elements of African, Christian, and Islamic ritual with formal European concert performance, Ghanaian ceremony, and improvisation. The performance, filmed in a single continuous shot at Ghanaba’s request, and framed by his introductory remarks, is followed by a feedback conversation, filmed in 2007, discussing the place of African, jazz, European, and “world” musics in his career. One hundred historical photographs appear in this section as well. The film was launched in Ghana by the Goethe Institut on Ghanaba’s 85th birthday, May, 4, 2008, to honor one of the country's best known musicians. He passed away on December 22, 2008.
Film 2: Accra Trane Station: The Music and Art of Nii Noi Nortey (60 minutes)
This film distills three years of conversations,2005-2008, with Nii Noi Nortey, the Ghanaian sculptor, instrument inventor, and avant-garde instrumentalist. Nortey discusses the African legacy of John Coltrane, and how it inspired invention of his afrifone instruments, and a series of twenty Accra Trane Station sculptures. The film also features Accra Trane Station percussionist Nii Otoo Annan. Included are scenes of Nortey creating sculptures and Accra Trane Station rehearsing, recording, and performing in Ghana and the USA.
BONUS FILM ON SAME DVD: From Accra to Santa Fe. Live studio sessions for the CD Topographies of the Dark; Nii Noi Nortey and Nii Otoo Annan with Steven Feld, Alex Coke, and Jefferson Voorhees. Filmed in August 2007 at Fourth World Studios, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Film 3: A Por Por Funeral for Ashirifie (60 Minutes)
Por Por music (pronounced“paw paw”) is named for the honking sound of antique squeeze-bulb car horns, ubiquitous on the wooden lorries of Ghana’s early transport history. After electric horns arrived in West Africa, these obsolete signaling instruments virtually disappeared. But a union of bus and truck drivers in the Accra township of La kept the por por horn and invented a jazzy honking music adding bells, drums, and voices.The La drivers only perform Por Por at funerals of their fellow union transport workers, and their music has gone largely unnoticed until recently. In March 2008 the La Drivers Union Por Por Group lost one of its key members, Nelson Ashirifie Mensah.This film documents the funeral performed in his memory and discusses Por Por’s relation to the New Orleans jazz funeral. Prix Bartok, Festival International Jean Rouch, Paris, 2010.
Trailers for the three videos can be viewed at the website of project editor Jeremiah Ra Richards:
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