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.M.T. Addy at home

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 !


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