Quiet please. Drum lesson in progress

The art of learning music in Ghana is all in the timing

I should have guessed something was up. As our taxi shuddered to a halt outside the Academy of African Music and Arts (Aama) at Kokrobite beach 19 miles from Accra, all was silent. My friends and I were hoping for an uplifting few days, ready to lose ourselves in the rhythm of pounding drums and the bracing Atlantic waves. I'd been told you could hear the famous Ghanaian drumming school before you could see the resort. But today it was graveyard quiet.

"So, when does the music start?" I asked the receptionist. Every Sunday, the resident band, the Royal Obonu Drummers, puts on a wild two-hour extravaganza for guests. We couldn't wait to hear it before starting our lessons the next day.

"There are no performances or lessons in May. There's a ban on drumming," replied the receptionist, his eyes wide with apology. "You should have asked."

After an hour's rest in my pretty round bungalow I was ready to go in search of explanations. Aama was founded by one of Ghana's most famous musicians, Master Drummer Mustafa Tettey Addy. It's the place to learn traditional Ghanaian beats and the sizzling contemporary rhythms that have sprung up from them. Individuals and groups, skilled professionals and fluffy-fingered beginners like me flock here to sit at the feet of the brilliant artists who teach drumming, singing and dance, all year round.

Well, almost. Our visit just happened to coincide with the run-up to the biggest party in the Ga traditional calendar, the Homowo or "hooting at hunger" festival. Every May or June, the Ga, the majority tribe in the Accra area, prepares for its late-summer harvest festival with a strictly enforced month-long ban on noise-making and drumming. Visit during the festival and the rhythmic beat of traditional drums fills the air, but in the run-up drumming is a major no-no.

We would just opt for peace and relaxation instead of riotous music-making. My guidebook described the resort as "swanky in a Ghanaian kind of way" and the Aama accommodation sets the mood perfectly. Traditional buildings sit low in fragrant gardens which lead right up to the red rock headland on the ocean. Rooms are basic – open windows and fans, rather than air conditioning, to keep you cool – but cost next to nothing.

One of my friends had a birthday, so in the evening we treated him to lobster brochettes and cold beer in the terrace restaurant. We pulled our table to the very edge of the rocks for a view of the largest silver moon I have ever seen.

The next day, after a breakfast of pineapple, we went in search of a swim. Aama has its own beach reached by a steep, rocky path but we didn't dare even dip a toe in here. Despite being assured that swimming was safe, we didn't fancy the drag of the current off this tortured bit of coast. You must choose your beach with care. More beautiful and much safer is Lamgba beach, half a mile or so to the west.

Later that day we cajoled a young man at the resort to give us what turned out to be a silent drumming lesson. Looking nervously around him like a cartoon burglar, he whisked four tall wooden drums into a beach hut. We had no idea who he was but he knew what he was doing, and we spent a half-frustrating, half-exhilarating hour perched on broken stools learning kpanlogo, supposedly the simplest Ghanaian rhythm. His jumpiness kept us from slapping the goatskins to vary the sound, as you should do to create this rebellious dance rhythm. But our soft hands were soon aching, so we were in no danger of being arrested for noise making.In the afternoon, Kpani Addy, teacher and leader of the Royal Obonu Drummers, showed me the circular practice rooms and dance halls in the grounds. "When the place is in full flow," he said, "it's like paradise. There is the most incredible atmosphere."

In the next few days we made a couple of gentle forays out of the resort: to Big Milly's, a hippier version of Aama just down the coast, and to the tiny village of Kokrobite, a 10-minute walk away.

After a few days of complete relaxation, we checked out. The Aama receptionist drove us to Kakum National Park, where we went for a night walk through the forest. We also explored the slave castles at Elmina and Cape Coast, chilling evidence of earlier visitors to this part of the West African coast.

I was sorry not to have had a chance to discover my hidden talent for drumming. But even without the music, Kokrobite is a fabulous destination. I'll just have to remember to ask the right questions when I go back there.

The Facts

Getting there

Ghana Airways (020-7499 0210) flies direct to Accra from £430 return.

If you have your own transport follow the coast road west from Accra turning at the signposted junction to Kokrobite after about 14 miles. Alternatively, take a taxi, which will cost about £10, or the tro-tro (a local taxi-bus) for 50p-£1 from Kaneshie station in Accra direct to Kokrobite.

Being there

AAMA, Kokrobite, Ghana (00 233 21 665987). Bookings can also be made through www.afrikamusica.com. A double room is £6.50 per night. a bungalow £10.50. Drumming lessons from £1.75 an hour.

Further information

Ghana Tourist Information (020-7201 5924; www.ghana.com/republic).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works