A GHANAIAN version of the honk horn music, popular in the USA, has been dedicated as a special jubilee gift to the government and the people of Ghana in Accra recently.
Produced last month on Compact Discs (CDs) by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (USA), Por por music refers to the honking horn music exclusive to the La Drivers Union of Accra and principally performed at union drivers' funerals.
Even though it preceded Ghana's independence, it is now that this musical history of transport workers is having its grand debut.
“In por por music we hear a group of trotro drivers in Accra rhythmically beat wrenches on tire rims and pumping tires to the sounds of interlocked car horns with bells and drums as well as sing topical songs that map the places, routes and road experiences of their distinct profession”.
The research and recordings of Prof. Steven Feld- University of New Mexico, in Accra from 2005 to 2006, led to honouring the musical inventiveness of drivers who shaped national history with the movement of goods and people countrywide, through the release of the por por CD.
Apart from celebrating the important contributions of transport workers to the development of Ghana, the CD recording also celebrates important connections between contemporary Ghanaian music and American jazz.
While much of the por por history was about men's work, it was as well very much a woman's narrative since women were the central players in agricultural transport and marketing throughout the country and shared widely in the creation of the stories, songs and performances of por por.
Addressing the gathering was the Deputy Chief of Mission (U.S. Embassy), Sue K. Brown who said uniquely Ghanaian por por music demonstrated the strong and supportive influence American and Ghanaian culture have exerted upon one another to create musical legacies.
All of these, she noted came together to celebrate “our past and point us towards the future as por por music continues to change and evolve to reflect these unique influences”, adding, “it fits very well with our theme for this year's jubilee: Ghana-U.S. @50: looking back, moving forward”.
On his part, Professor J.K.B. Nketia emphasised that African musicology thrived where scholars in Africa collaborated in achieving a common goal.
“I never really saw por por, so I was really struck when somebody had come from America” and found “this music that has been hidden from us”, he pointed out and commended the support by the Smithsonian Folkways.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Professor Steven Feld disclosed that the record has received international recognition and was available for sale all over the world, noting that it was even receiving attention on the airwaves as well as on the Internet.