Klaus Voswinckel

The Night of the Drums

Klaus Voswinkel
Weitra: Bibliothek der Provinz, 2009
198 S.
ISBN 978-390000030-1

Klaus Voswinckel is a film maker, known for his sensitive film portraits of contemporary composers. These impressions of Ghana, too, resulted from a film about the drummer Ghanaba, who, under the name of Guy Warren, founded the Afro-Jazz genre together with Art Blakey and Charlie Parker in the USA in the 1950s.

The American percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky is preparing for a concert with Ghanaba in the Goethe Institute in Accra. She has never seen a difference between experimental and archaic music, but for Voswinckel, who accompanies Schulkowsky with his camera, these Ghana-trips become a search for the “undiscovered personal inner history. How much do we live from one another, or against one another?” This is not meant in a theoretical sense, but it is a search for colours, scents, sounds, gestures, rituals, symbols and encounters with people.

Voswinckel, who is a very visually-oriented person, cannot get the pictures out of his mind. They “started growing rampant like plants, that I could not help writing about them.” There are snakes, village shrines, light magic, voodoo, strong liquor used as ancestor sacrifice, and dancing women at a funeral. They visit coffin carpenters and drum makers, meet queen mothers (these are traditionally influential women) from Mamfe and travel all the way to Kumasi. A group of drummers celebrate a festival. In front of Ghanaba’s hut in the forest Ghanaba and Robyn greet the sunrise in a dialogue of their drums. At the concert, the foreignness of the diverse and at first often incomprehensible impressions is eventually dissolved: “While listening, words were flashing across my mind, words, which seemed to leap out of the rhythms of Ghanaba’s drum. Words like: snakes, heartbeat, and world-touching. Knocking, sending and receiving messages into the world. Dialogue with the other side. Vibrations, commotions.

“Die Nacht der Trommeln” (“The Night of the Drums”) is a wonderfully sensual book, which one not only reads but almost hears and sees. In Ghana things are not ideal, but Voswinckel is reluctant to use the clichés of the continent of disasters, on the one hand, and of the natural paradise, on the other. “I want to ... open up the view of something that is current and that has something to tell us, more than ever.”

Klaus Voswinckel: Die Nacht der Trommeln
(The Night of the Drums)

Africa, rhythm and drums together form a cliché as one might expect from a colourful travel brochure or at Africa-festivals.More ...