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16.03.2009 Feature Article

Voice from Afar: Is the African born noisy?

Voice from Afar: Is the African born noisy?

In the letters page of the Daily Graphic last week, a contributor complained about noise in Accra. I have read a handful of similar complaints or contributions which often speak for hundreds who suffer in silence.

I am sure that many find the noise levels in our towns unbearable now and again. But they do not complain because it is not worth the effort. The police and other institutions which should take action often find those who complain 'troublesome'. They give the impression that noise is part of our way of life.

We have laws and regulations designed to limit noise levels. But those who should enforce these laws appear to believe that these are colonial regulations from which independence should free us.

After all, the colonial administrators and expatriates bury their dead "like chickens are disposed of. They do not send the dead off in dignity with "wake-keepings" and elaborate funerals which announce loudly the passage to the other world.

It is interesting to note that even when it is announced that there will be no wake before burial, the extended family and close friends assemble to pay their respects to the dead while the "ghetto blasters" blare out screeching noise.

Even when there is no ceremony, some play their music loud to disturb neighbours. You ask them politely to reduce the level and you risk being a bad neighbour.

Those of us who were students in England after the war remember how difficult it was to obtain accommodation in certain areas. The real reason was colour prejudice, but after a major war against racialism and other evils, the prejudice had to be rationalised. It was argued that we Africans were noisy. But so were other categories of non-Africans.

British musicians and students of music who practised on their instruments had problems in finding accommodation. But this problem was solved by stipulating when they could play their instruments. Generally, however, the law did not allow neighbours to be disturbed with excessive noise. And over there, the law was enforced.

And why can we not enforce the law about noise in Ghana? The African is not immune to noise. He or she cannot sleep when it is noisy. The sick find noise disturbing. It is difficult to think or reflect in a noisy atmosphere. Already, many of our young are hard of hearing because of incessant nearness to "ghetto blasters".

A few years ago, there was a conflict between traditionalists and worshippers in Accra during the observance of the Ga Homowo rites. The traditionalists insisted on cessation of drumming and noise a few weeks before the Homowo festival.

Some charismatic churches, however, insisted on their right to make 'noise unto the Lord'. Through the good offices of the Regional Security Council a compromise was reached whereby there was no drumming in the old parts of Accra while the law was enforced in the capital generally.

Unfortunately, the practice of enforcement was not continued. We should now abandon the indiscipline of ignoring our laws with impunity. Parties, churches, nightclubs and the like should take place in reasonably soundproof environments so as not to disturb others. Alternatively, they should reduce the level of noise they make.

We were not born noisy, nor are we unmindful of the rights of others. Not long ago, we lived in villages where everybody was engaged in the ongoing ceremony or party and hardly anyone was disturbed by the consequent noise. There were no "ghetto blasters" either. Today, however, we live in towns and cities where any noise we make may disturb others. We should realise this and make the necessary change in our way of life.

The laws on noise should be enforced.
Noise should be minimised after 10 p.m., and should cease after midnight. The police should enforce the rules and regulations without anyone lodging a complaint.

Even during the day, noise can be irritating if not unbearable. Should those who sell records blare their music out loud and shrill? Should one be disturbed by vehicles carrying loudspeakers which noisily advertise and sell wares and concoctions which if not dangerous are of doubtful value?

The peace of the vast majority is disturbed because the existing laws are not enforced. The African suffers from -noise just like anybody else. The welfare of the nation demands a stop to indiscipline. We must maintain discipline by enforcing existing laws.

Credit: K. B. Asante: Daily Graphic

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2009

This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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