This week our Homegrown Plus Premiere series continues with Wuza Wuza, a music and dance performance company featuring Ghanaian artists deeply invested in the expression of African traditions and cultures. Following the standard for this series, this blog post includes an embedded concert video, an interview video, and a set of related links to explore!
Wuza Wuza translates best as “you and us together as one,” and the name is a combination of the Akan word wu, or “you,” and the Dagbani word zaa, or “together as one.” Additionally, the group’s name references the dance company’s founder, Yawuza Alhassan, one of Ghana’s most internationally recognized dancers and choreographers. Alhassan established a nascent version of the project in 2000 as a solo endeavor, and then formally launched the group in 2005 at the British Council of Ghana by pulling together a collective of like-minded artists to create music and dance pieces that reflected the diverse ethnic and cultural traditions across the country.
Wuza Wuza ensemble members are highly trained performers and instructors, educated in traditional musical practices as well as in formal contemporary institutions. Collectively, the members have learned from various traditional masters and completed rigorous residencies with prestigious companies such as the National Dance Company of Ghana or the Noyam African Dance Institute. They have also collaborated with members of the Sogo dance troupe, Nbanba Culture dance, N.Y.C. Dance troupe, and Gyanomo Dance Troupe. The company is currently based in New York City, where they filmed their video for the Homegrown series with support from the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. The members featured in the video are Yawuza Alhassan, Marianna Gariba, and Kuubet Saeed.
Wuza Wuza pieces reflect lived experience and cultural frameworks through the unity of rhythm and movement. The group’s wide-ranging repertoire emerges from a creative combination of indigenous, imaginative, and contemporary sources. Through this repertoire, Wuza Wuza Ensemble aims to unite, educate, and entertain audiences while representing Ghana and African traditions around the world.
Enough reading—it’s time to hear and see the Wuza Wuza ensemble in their Homegrown at Home 2022 video. Watch it in the player below!
During my interview with Yawuza Alhassan, we talked about his pathway into musical and dance performance while he was a child in Ghana. We also talked about the genesis of Wuza Wuza, and the group’s approach to collective creation of the repertoire. Throughout the conversation, Yawuza offered insights into his own philosophy about unity and sharing cultural expressions. I’m grateful for the time he was able to give to the conversation, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too…find it in the player below!
After the premiere, you’ll be able to find both these videos with more bibliographic information at this link on the Library of Congress website. You’ll also find them on the Library of Congress YouTube Channel.
You can also visit the Center for Traditional Music and Dance “Touring Artists” page to learn more about the group.
If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to folklife and traditional culture from Ghana.
Archival Film Online
In early July, 1964, Pete and Toshi Seeger visited the coast of Ghana, 40 miles Northeast of Accra, and filmed the musical activities of a fishing community.
Out of this footage, they edited a 14-minute film called “Singing Fishermen of Ghana,” which you can watch on Folkstreams at this link.
The footage is part of AFC’s Pete and Toshi Seeger Film Collection, whose catalog record is here.
The Library of Congress Music Division featured the lecture “Rhythmic Imagination in African Music” by Ghanaian-born musicologist Kofi Agawu, a professor at Princeton University and a fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The American Folklife Center featured a program of storytelling and music from the late Opalanga Pugh, accompanied by Askia Toure. Pugh, a native of Denver, Colorado, spent time in many West African countries, including Ghana, and often included Akan traditions in her presentations.
Get an overview of dance-related collections and resources at the Center, including the Center for Traditional Music and Dance collection as well as a fieldwork collection documenting traditional dance in several African countries!