Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Jonathan Dratel

Mentor: Kenneth Sacks

Title:  Fume Fume “ It’s Ga Best Around”

Description: For my senior project I chose the subject of ethnomusicology and explored the relatively unknown rhythm of the “Fume Fume”, a Ghanaian drum pattern. Within this rhythm I studied technique, the different ways the rhythm is used, and the cultural importance that it holds. I created ethnography of the piece, combining research, personal interviews, and other information gathered from various sources. From my paper and product, my goal continued with teaching an African drumming class. In addition to this rhythm I also did a brief study on a Native American form of drumming, and incorporated it into my product. By doing so, I had another rhythm which I could compare to the Fume Fume, as well as a broader understanding of musical importance within the context of culture.

I chose to do this project because I have always bee interested in African drumming as well as performing and understanding a new type of music. After consulting with my mentor, Kenneth Sacks, he informed me that Fume Fume is a relatively undocumented form of music that could use more exposure. This seemed like a good opportunity to create an ethnography for a form of music that had not yet been explored with much depth. My project also fits into the deep-rooted cultural ideas that The Ross School encourages. Just as The Ross School looks to educate its students on a broad sense of global community, so too do I seek to spread the influence of this special form of music.


Fume Fume Paper

Video Clip

Shinnecock Pow-Wow Drum



Introduction Notation


Hello everyone and welcome to my presentation, thanks for coming. I know some of you might be wondering why I horribly misspelled “T-H-E” in my title but its actually my obviously successful attempt at a punny senior project title that you’ll hopefully understand soon.

During the Spring of 2008 the senior class was faced with deciding what they wanted to do for their senior project. When I first began to think of a senior project, I was torn between music and sports. At the time I was interested in sports management, and of course as I will always be, interested in sports overall. But the more I thought of a project that I would enjoy and appreciate at the same time, the more music seemed to fit the description. I had served as the master drummer of the African drumming class in 10th grade, drummed as a freshman, and taken advantage of any opportunity to knock on the table at dinner, no matter how much it annoyed my parents. But although I had drummed in school, and had always tapped for leisure, I had never explored the literary side of music. I did not understand the impact that music has on the lives of cultures around the world.

After talking with Dr Sacks about possible ideas, and discussing the possibility of music as a senior project, I decided it was the subject that I wanted to focus on.

Over the summer I toyed with ideas, finally deciding in the fall of 2008 to pursue an African drumming project with the help of Okoe. Once school began Dr Sacks and I met with Okoe for the first time. Down in the movement room we spent a period observing Okoe play the entire rhythm, filmed him explaining sections piece by piece, and I conducted an interview of questions I had written up in the days before. But as we listened to him play the Fume Fume rhythm we noticed more and more how impossibly hard the rhythm truly was. While I was editing the video of the footage I took I was watching the end of Okoe’s explanation when I came across a line that basically summed up our ideas that day after Okoe played the Fume Fume. As he finished the rhythm and looked up at Dr Sacks and me to tell us that was it, we both sat there in silence, until Dr sacks finally said “ well.. uh… I have no idea how your gonna learn this”

But we realized that with scheduling and practice outside of school it would be possible to learn at least a part of the rhythm. This video represents the first meeting I had with Okoe, and the meetings that Dr Sacks, Okoe, and I had over the next few weeks at the Majcherski house, where Okoe was staying.

Originally, in all of its senior project glory, the project was extremely complex, with layers and exploration both within and outside of the musical realm. Originally I was to write a full ethnography, perform the piece at the school, and try to attend a conference in New York City to present my exploration. However, due to me not seizing the opportunity, the horrid college application process, and my heads reluctance to stay away from other soccer player’s knees, I could not take full advantage of the time Okoe spent in the US.

But after meeting with Sacks and wrestling with the idea of changing my product completely, I convinced him that I would take advantage of the time I still had left.

The new and polished idea for my senior project product was to write ethnography of Fume Fume, and relate it to the Ga people, the culture from which it came. Rather than taking an entirely musical approach, or an entirely cultural approach, I wanted to combine the two, and show the truly important role that music plays in society.

But on the same subject something that I learned that I was not expecting to, probably within the very first weeks of my study was the amazing characteristics and abilities of music even in everyday life.. There’s something about music that no matter who you are, no matter what music you like, no matter what culture your from, it can bring together with someone strikingly different than yourself.

An example of this actually came just a few weeks ago during an integrated class period before which Tom stele had talked about how different all of our taste in music. But during the class I was playing a lot of Motown music on the speaker, Marvin Gaye, Jackson 5, that kind of music, and sure enough I looked over and Tom stele was tapping his fingers, stomping his feet. And the next week on the basketball bus I saw that he had a few Marvin Gaye songs sitting in his I pod.

It just really struck me how people do not notice the impact music really has on their lives, the transformation that it can teach, and the connection that it can create

For my paper I wrote an “Extensive ethnography” that looked to explore how much constant change is involved in the very traditional culture.

The first and most central theme throughout was Neo- Tradition. The term neo-traditional suggests a style, a new appearance of a traditional form, which is too young to be classified as “traditional”. By keeping the history and tradition of the music, but adding a popular and modern aspect, the music undergoes a change at the most personal of levels.

This idea is tough for us all to understand unless you have researched it like I have because with American music it is much different, as time changed the music changed, from old fold rock, to rock and roll, to modern pop and rap music. But in their culture their music stays stylistically the same, stays traditional, yet at the same time becomes modern. It is as if the two are hand in hand, and when one changes they cannot even consider going on without the other changing as well. Its an amazing phenomena, one that I have learned a tremendous amount about that I didn’t even know existed before this project.

The second was the Ga people the culture in Ghana from which Okoe and the Fume Fume come from. Live in the Accra Region of Ghana. The Ga people hold family, tradition, and music very dear. They have festivals and celebrations in which these themes are extremely important. It was interesting to see that the depth and layers within the Ga culture actually made my project easier.

The third central theme in my paper was the Fume Fume. The Fume Fume pattern was the main focus of my research paper, the rhythm that I learned from Okoe in the fall. Originally created during the mid 1980’s, it was intended to be played at the harvest festival.

The creator of Fume Fume was Mustapha Tettey Addy, a famous Ga drummer, farmer, and Ghanaian figure in Ghana today. He is the founder of the AAMA, the Academy of African music and arts, and is known by many as one of the “master drummers of Ghana.

Okoe and the other band members originally learned it in his band, having toured around Europe and some of America playing the rhythm. It is extremely popular in Ghana now, but as I said it is relatively unknown across the world.

The second rhythm that I tried to incorporate into my project was music played on the Shinnecock reservation in Southampton.

The main source of my information for the Shinnecock introduction was one of the lead singers living on the reservation whose name is Ginew Benton. It was a very interesting interview, and an experience from which I learned a lot.  But this meeting was not as easy as the one I conducted with Okoe. Not a knock on Ginew or any of the Shinnecock people, BUT, it was defiantly difficult going onto the reservation and obtaining information during their drumming session. Uncomfortable and somewhat awkward, the amount of information obtained was less in comparison to the information I had obtained about Fume Fume.

But what I DID learn from Ginew was the amazing truth about the role that music played in Shinnecock culture. Although music plays an important role in Ga culture, it is vastly different to the role drumming plays within contemporary Shinnecock culture. Within Shinnecock life the drum represents an elder, a teaching instrument, and a spirit from which the members of the reservation learn from and take pride in.

The lesson plan for the Fume Fume rhythm is up stairs in the senior library. In it I state how long I am going to teach each section, what I am going to teach when, and how I plan on doing so.

The first problem that I faced throughout my problem was that daunting word: “procrastination”.  I know its annoying, and everyone says it, but its true. You will do it, there’s no way around it, but even if you do just a little everyday it will help. I did a little every night and felt like I was nowhere on my product and the next thing I know I am 20 pages into it.

The second was family. Okoe had been in the United States for months, and hadn’t seen his family since he left. He had to go back home in the fall, making me consider the second rhythm rather than really going in depth with one idea. Of course I am somewhat regretful that my product did not turn out as it was originally planned, but I am still happy with the work I have done in the last several months.

The first skill that I learned was time management, sort of the outcome of the setback with saving time. I learned that you have to take a big project in little pieces, small part by small part.

The second was depth into the Anthropology of music, as I spoke of earlier I truly learned the idea that there is more behind music that one can see on the surface, and much more importance to their culture than people realize.

The third was setting a schedule.  In the beginning I was approaching the paper as a whole, as one project branching out into different sections. But as I kept working I noticed that in order to successfully complete the paper I would have to think section by section, and focus on the small progress in order to complete the whole.

Thank You:

Kenneth Sacks: Thanks so much for sticking with me, not giving up hope when I kind of momentarily dropped the ball. Also for all the revisions, for playing the bell, just for everything

Okoe: I might have thought learning it was hard but while editing to video I realized how truly hard it must have been to perform and answer questions about it to me, and teach me in such a short period of time.

Ms Parkes: For her flexible deadlines, and for distancing herself from our projects….. Im kidding…….Not but id really like to thank her for all of the help, support, and of course encouragement.

Kenneth Kilfara: For all the help with compiling my footage, editing it, and putting it onto my computer. I came to him very late in the process and he was extremely helpful and understanding.

My Parents: They helped me stay on top of things, encouraged me to pursue a musical senior project, even though I was somewhat quiet about my product throughout the process. 

James and Jasper:  For joining me in drumming when a good song came on, or we felt like hitting something. And finally a very small Taylor Wilson for trying  to join in with jasper and James, but aside from his beautiful singing voice,  sadly having no sense of rhythm.

Works Cited

Benton, Ginew. "The Shinnecock Song." Personal interview. Dec. 2008.

Calabash Music, ed. "Mustapha Tettey Addy." Nation Geographic of World Music.

National Geographic. Fall 2008 <http:/

Dudu, Tucci. "Biography: Mustapha Tettey Addy." Weltwunder. 1998. Fall 2008.<http:/>.

"Ga." Encyclopĺdia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopĺdia Britannica Online. 03 Dec. 2008. <>.

Greenberg, Joseph H. (1966) The Languages of Africa (2nd ed. with additions and corrections). Bloomington: Indiana University.

International Centre for African Music and Art, comp. "Ghanaian Musical Artists." Ghana Can. ICAMD. Fall 2008. <http://>.

Kilson, Marion. African Urban Kinsmen : The Ga of Central Accra. C Hurst, 1974.

Nketia, J.H. K. "Kpanlogo." Interview. Kpanlogo. July 2003. University of Amserdam. Fall 2008. <http://>.

Nketia, Joseph H. The Music of Africa. Boston, MA: W. W. Norton & Company, Incorporated, 1974.

Okoe Ardyfio. "Fume Fume." Personal interview. Sept. 2008.

Reale, Peter. Ancient Traditions, Future Grooves. Senior Project 2007. Vers. Final. Winter 2007. The Ross School. Fall 2008.

Retink, Sonja. "KPANLOGO: conflict, identity crisis and enjoyment in Ga drum/dance." July 2003. University of Amsterdam. Fall 2008  <http://>.

Spuhler, James. “Biology, speech, and language.” JSTOR. 1977. JSTOR.  Department of Anthropology. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque New Mexico. Fall- Winter 2008.

Willemze, Theo. Spectrum Muzieklexicon. Unknown: Holland, 1975.

Community Member (Details)

Outside Consultant:

Sophia Lee

Position: Writer, Musician, and Ethnomusicologist