Mustapha Tettey Addy - The Masterdrummer from Ghana -

 Mustapha Tettey Addy was born in 1942 in Avenor, one of the villages in the capital city of Ghana, in Accra. He is a member of the Ga people and he was born into a family of well known drummers. His father, Kpani Kofi Addy, was also a highly respected Akon priest who taught him to play the gongs at an early age. Mustapha Tettey Addy not only learned the traditional songs and ritual dances like Kpele, Akon and Otu, but also the meaning and the curative properties of medicinal herbs. Both music and the cure of diseases are closely connected in Ghana.

In 1963, after his father's death, Addy, because of his great knowledge of Ga drumming, dancing and ritual, was appointed Dadefoiakye, a master drummer by the other members of his family. At this time he was working at the University of Ghana as a drummer and dancer, Mustapha Tettey Addy was given many opportunities to widen his professional experience through touring, TV appearances etc. At the University he also met several specialist drummers from other regions of Ghana and began to build his comprehensive knowledge of the many drumming, dancing and singing traditions of his country. Amongst his teachers was the great Ewe drummer Husunui Afadi Adono Ladzekpo.


When he left the University in 1965, he began several years of travel in Ghana and neighbouring Ivory Coast working by himself, with friends or as an guide to visiting scholars and ethno musicologists. During these years he widened his range of skills learning drumming techniques from Ghana as well as from Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Apart from becoming a virtuoso performer, Addy was recognised in his country for his important work in the preservation and development of West Africa's rich cultural heritage. At the end of the 60's Mustapha Tettey Addy was invited to several eastern european countries as well as visits to Western Germany, England and the United States.


  In Düsseldorf he found a new home, from where he instigated several tours with his band 'Ehimomo'. He also built up a reputation as a percussion teacher, conducting numerous drum workshops for beginners and advanced scholars, thereby increasing the interest in West African percussion.


Between 1972 and 1981 Mustapha Tettey Addy recorded seven LP's for the 'Tangent'-Label in England, for 'Arion' in France and for 'Insel Hombroich' in Germany. But the most successful production resulted from a cooperation with 'Die Werkstatt' in Düsseldorf, an international academy for dance and culture. Here he recorded the classic 'Come and drum' (CD WW 101-2) in a church in Düsseldorf, on one afternoon in 1979, together with his son Abdur Rahman Kpani Addy, with jazzdrummer Michael Küttner and percussionist Rolf Exler.

 In 1982 Addy moved back to Westafrica, where he started to collect and to arrange the Obonu music, which is rooted in the Ashanti region. He started to work at the institute for African studies and he travelled extensively around his country visiting various tribes to learn about their music and ceremonies. In 1986 Addy started his new group which was called 'The Drummers' and later ' The Obonu Drummers'.

 In 1988 he moved one step further and founded the 'Academy of African Music and Arts' (AAMA), based near Kokrobité in the costal region of Ghana. In this picturesque clifftop location Addy created a conceptually and architecturally unique centre.It was a place skillfully designed to primarily preserve traditional forms of art, crafts, dance and music. AAMA attracted many artists, musicians and teachers from around the world as well as supporting panafrican cultural exchange and encouraging and developing new talent. A lot of curious percussion enthusiasts travelled to this well known place, where Mustapha Tettey Addy himself gave concerts every Sunday afternoon.In october 1991 Mustapha Tettey Addy and his Obonu Drummers went into a studio in Accra to record a landmark album in his career: 'The Royal Drums of Ghana' (CD WW 102-2) featuring the royal music which he had collected and developed. In ordfer to do this, Mustapha Tettey Addy had obtained the exclusive permission of the kings and elders of the various tribes to use their big Obonu drums outside of their ritual context. The album reveiled, for the very first time to an international audience, "the music of 12 tribes", which is normally played only at enthronements or funerals .

 In 1992 and 1993 - ten years after his last visit to Europe, Mustapha Tettey Addy came back with his Obonu Drummers to present the royal rhythms to a western audience. On two extensive tours 'The Royal Drums of Ghana' was performed in Germany,

 England and the US, where they played a string of WOMAD festivals. For a sequel to his classic 'Come and drum' the masterdrummer also reunited with his friends Rolf Exler and Michael Küttner in Düsseldorf. On 'Come and dance' (WeltWunder CD WW 105-2) they explore acoustic landscapes between traditional West African percussion and jazz-infused sound meditations.

 In 1995 for two years Addy lef the Academy in Kokrobité, to concentrate on a life as a farmer. Several attempts were made to lure him back into the spotlight until an old friend of Mustapha's, Rikki Stein of Pan African Arts Management presented him at the Marché des Arts et Spectacles Africains (MASA) in 1997 which was attended by several hundred international presenters from all over the world.


  Predictably, their performance in Abidjan's Palais de Congrés was warmly received and plans are now being made to tour Mustapha Tettey Addy and the new Royal Obonu Drummers in various parts of the world during 1998/1999.

 Master drummer, anthropologist and researcher in the field of traditional music and dance, Mustapha Tettey Addy has been at the forefront of Ghanaian musical development and innovation for more than three decades.

With internationally released albums, and tours and workshops carried out in Europe and the United States, Addy is among the most respected musicians on the African Continent. In his own words:

 "The music I present stems from a lifetime of research carried out in villages throughout Ghana and the surrounding countries. I collect the music and arrange it in my own style. I am not a composer. My research has shown that the cultural heritage honed and developed over the centuries by our ancestors provides more material than I could use in a lifetime. I therefore have no need to compose - only to interpret in my own fashion. Also I feel a pressing need to assure that this extraordinary body of work is preserved for posterity.

 As well as being a musician, I am a farmer, growing sweet potatoes and yellow yam. I am also interested in natural healing, inherited from my father who was a famous medicine man. As far as I am concerned, these three aspects of my daily activities are closely interconnected."


Mustapha Tettey Addy

An Interview with the Masterdrummer


This interview was made in 1997 while Jörg Gebauer, the owner of WeltWunder Records stayed in Ghana.

M.T.Addy at this time was living in a small village called Sam-Sam, 25 Kilometer away from Ghana's capitol Accra .


 JG: During the last days you talked a lot about your father. Please tell me about the way he used to teach you. Can you compare it to school lessons ?

MTA: No ! You had to go into the bush, collect certain roots and herbs and when you brought them to him, he told you which disease they cure. And when ill people came to us, then we helped them. This was integrated into daily life.

JG: He taught you about herbs and cooking, what else did you learn from him ?

MTA: I also learned drumming and dancing. He had a lot of students, so I had a drumming school right in my home.

JG: How long did you stay with your father ?

MTA: Until I was 17. That's when he died. We used to live in a small village called Avenor, which is now considered a slum . But when I grew up it was nice, with palms and mango trees.

JG: How did your life carry on ?

MTA: After my father died I started to play soccer seriously. When my father was still alive, I had no chance to play, but now I put all my energy into it.

JG: How far did you get ?

MTA I nearly played in one of the great teams in Accra, but then I had to move to Legon. That is where the big theater- and musicschool is.

JG: It sounds like you were forced to go there...

MTA: A friend came to me, he told me of this new school in Legon. He knew that I was drumming and that it might be interesting for me. So I went there, the professor talked to me and I was accepted.

JG: And so you studied 'westafrican rhythms'...

MTA: Yes.

JG: Theoretically and practically ?

MTA: Everything was possible, I was free to choose what I wanted to learn. I wanted to know everything about drumming. The people there hated me because I was making a lot of noise.

JG: You practised night and day ?

MTA: Yes, I even missed meals, I was always drumming.

JG: How long did you stay there ?

MTA: For 4 years. But in the meantime I also travelled. With the Ghana Dance Ensemble I toured a lot, I was in Europe too. 1967, after my university studies I met an american anthropologist. With her I travelled throughout westafrica for three years, to Ivory Coast, Togo and so on, to do research on rhythm. I learned a lot, which was very helpful to me.

JG: And then you moved to Europe ?

MTA: Yes, after my studies in Africa the american professor invited me to England. She introduced me to some journalists, and I did interviews with the Sunday Telegraph and Oxford Mail. I also played my first solo concerts when I was in London. And I recorded two LP's.

JG: So you lived in London for a while ?

MTA: Yes, for two years. Then I moved to Germany. My first major concert was at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. I first settled in Essen, later I moved toDuesseldorf. I started to form my own band called 'Ehimomo'. This was the band that included my nephew Aja Addy. At that time I met a german percussion enthusiast who had this idea to establish the 'Werkstatt', a center for african arts, dance, theater and music. In this center we organised a lot of workshops and concerts. In 1980 I started to bring percussion students to Ghana: I think that people who are interested in african drumming should study it in its natural surrounding, where they can practise better and more often. After that everyone started to do workshops in Ghana, but I was the first.

JG: And that was the time when the 'Academy of African Arts' was founded ?

MTA: I had the idea of the academy during my time at university. 1986 the time was right and so I opened it in Kokrobité, 20 miles away from Accra in a coastal region, together with my german partner.

JG: You also worked as an architect and housebuilder ?

MTA: Yes (he draws blueprints of the buildings which he constructed), and I also planted most of the trees.

JG:Have you had a lot of students from Germany or where did they come from ?

MTA: The people came from all over, from America, Italy, France and so on. I also set up a new band, the Royal Obonu Drummers. They focussed on royal music of various ghanaean tribes and royal houses, but I also taught them other rhythms.

JG: What has happened in the past two years since you left the academy ?

MTA: I have organised a new group. They had to learn the old rhythms first, but I also have a lot of new compositions which I teach them, its a mixture. We practise every day as you have seen already.

JG: Do you think the Europeans should help the Africans to organise themselves within Africa, like for example at the MASA festival ?

MTA: Yes its important that African musicians get known all over Africa. MASA is an important step towards an African cultural selfconcsiousness. It's a big opportunity, because up until now African artists are not taken too seriously.

JG: The music industry is not a big economic factor because there are so many bootleg cassettes on the market...

MTA: The musicians have to organise themselves in a musicians union. This would work out in Ghana quite well, because a lot of musicians need to fight for their rights. The police is already taking care of the black market.

JG: You told me yesterday that one track from your new CD 'Secret Rhythms' you had to learn yourself again. How did you play it when you recorded it ?

MTA: That is a secret to myself too.

JG: Do you think you recorded it in a state of trance ?

MTA: It could be that the song is played through me.

JG: How does this work on stage ?

MTA: Sometimes, when I'm on stage I don't see anyone in the audience. The audience thinks that I look at them, but I really don't see them.

JG: How do you recharge your battery when you give away so much. Isn't very exhausting ?

MTA: When you can't give, you cannot get. When you are giving you also get. You can never stop to giving. When you don't have anything to give anymore, then you are dead.

JG: This means at a concert you loose and you receive energy ?

MTA: You get more than you give !

JG: So afterwards you have more than before ?

MTA: Yes, I feel refreshed. The people are offering so much. It is like electricity.

JG: Thank you for speaking to me !