Back in June 2008, the BBC’s David Amanor introduced us to several musicians from the west African nation of Ghana. The men were attending an audition in the capital, Accra. They were vying for scholarships to the Berklee College of music in Boston. Berklee has long had contacts with musicians in Ghana. One of the percussionists we didn’t hear from that day was another extremely talented young drummer named Victor Dogah. Dogah ended up winning a scholarship to Berklee. Katy Clark caught up him with at Berklee. (Audio available after 5PM EST)
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KATY CLARK: Back in June 2008, the BBC’s David Amanor introduced us to several musicians from the West African Nation of Ghana.
MUSICIAN #1: What will you be playing when you go into the audition?
MUSICIAN #2: I’d like to play a [SOUNDS LIKE] Bahta.
MUSICIAN #1: Which is a Volta Region drum.
MUSICIAN #2: Yeah, from there.
MUSICIAN #1: Here’s a little taste.
CLARK: The men were attending an audition in the capital Accra. They were vying for scholarships to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Berklee has long had contacts with musicians in Ghana. One of the percussionists we didn’t hear from that day was another extremely talented young drummer named Victor Dogah. Dogah ended up winning a scholarship to Berklee. He’s been in Boston now for about six months. I caught ups with him recently during one of his classes, a course on Brazilian Percussion and Rhythms led by Berklee Professor, Mark Walker.
MARK WALKER: So this is the real final. Let’s see if we can sound good for the radio, right?
CLARK: For nearly two hours, Dogah and his classmates take turns jamming with different percussion instruments. After class, the 25-year-old Dogah sat down with Professor Walker and me to talk about the music he grew up with. It’s Ewe, which is also the name of one of the languages spoken in Ghana. Dogah describes Ewe as music and language rolled into one.
DOGAH: You communicate from the drums, you know. That’s how you play. Whatever we say, we make sure we play it on the drum.
CLARK: What are you going to play?
DOGAH: Let me see. I will sing a song and I will translate it on the drum.
WALKER: Do you want me to play a support part? Just tell me what to play.
WALKER: What do you need, bells?
DOGAH: Yeah, bells.
DOGAH: Just one bell. Yeah. [Singing and playing drum.]
CLARK: What was that about? What were you singing?
DOGAH: It’s war music. Indigenous music. That’s what we play back home. Everywhere you go you have to give tongues. You can be blessed for any type of your music. And the old people will come and use money and put it on your forehead and that means that is a good way they appreciate you. You are counted to be a good musician.
CLARK: Dogah was recognized as a good musician early on by his uncle, the late Ewe drumming master, Godwin Agbelleh [PH]. Agbelleh gave Dogah his nickname, Danger Blue or Blue for short meaning he’s so good, he’s dangerous. Given his rich musical heritage, I wondered what Dogah hopes to learn at Berklee.
DOGAH: When you go back to Africa now, you have a really good musician that you like accepting things like they can’t read music or they can’t compose their own music. We learn by ear. So by doing so we have great, great past musicians and they don’t have any recorder. So I still don’t know. I have to come to Berklee because Berklee is like the best music school in the world. And I teach a lot of students who came to Berklee and they come to my house in Africa and I teach them. So they are really good students. So I say no I want to come here to fulfill my dream.
CLARK: So students from Berklee come and take lessons from you. Have they taken lessons from you back in Ghana?
CLARK: And you wanted to know what they know.
DOGAH: Yeah, and I can be able to read and write. Yeah, that’s right.
CLARK: I’d like to just get a little bit more music from you if I could.
DOGAH: Okay. I will play Fumi, Fumi [PH].
CLARK: And what kind of song is this?
DOGAH: This is the music for fishermen when they go to sea. So drummers have to be able to show and play music for them so that they can have enough energy to draw the net. Yes. [Playing drums].
CLARK: The Ghanaian musician and Berklee College of Music student, Victor Dogah ends today’s show. From the Nan and Bill Harris Studios at WGBH, I’m Katy Clark. Thanks for tuning in.
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