Monday, 28 November 2011


Various - Ghana SpecialThe heart rending email below was sent to me by the president of the Ghana Studies Association(an association of scholars from all over the world who focus on Ghana in their work). It relates the effects on Prof. John Collins(and his decades of painstaking work to preserve,research and document Ghana music) of the recent floods in Accra. Though of British ancestry he is now a full Ghanaian citizen and in his very unassuming and inimitable style he has passionately focused on preserving Ghanaian and indeed indigenous African music. I have read some of John's scholarly work and met him a couple of times. For those with connections to the powers that be(who should be directing resources to such   undertakings)  sending the message will be useful. Lets donate our bits and pieces. I love my Ghana music to bits. I just listened this dusk to Kojo Antwi's magical "Hini me" as I drove past the beach on the beach road at Tema ; there was a certain calming surreality as the African sun dipped and as the sea sprayed those gossamer like mists; crushed upon those rocks with both intensity and a caressing tenderness and Kojo Antwi just crooned away. I WANTED TO STOP AND MAKE THE GULF OF GUINEA MY BED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dear GSA members,

Many of our members have been affected by the recent floods in Ghana, including John Collins, who sends the following report on damage to his music studio and archives and an appeal for assistance. Please share with your colleagues. I am willing to collect donations from GSA members to forward to John - simply mail a check to us (with a note indicating it is a donation to Bokoor House) or make a donation (again with a note) via paypal.

All the best,

Dennis Laumann
GSA President

Dear colleagues, supporters, fans, friends, press and well-wishers  – as you may know I am a musician, musicologist and music lecturer at the University of Ghana - and I  have been operating the BAPMAF music archives in Ghana since  1990. This NGO was set up to preserve and promote Ghanaian and other African popular music and was partly opened at my Bokoor House to the public in 1996 and more fully in 2007. However, devastation struck in the middle of the night of 26th Oct 2011 in the form of a flood. This occurred over many parts of Accra due to an unseasonal and massive rainfall compounded by more and more people building in or blocking water ways - so that rivers could no longer easily run into the sea. In our particular Taifa-Ofankor area this was compounded by the construction of a 3 mile section of the Kumasi highway (from Achimota to Ofankor) without adequate storm gutters - and also saw-millers in my immediate neighbourhood - some of whom have been anti socially been dumping sawdust in rivers and wetlands for the last few years
We residents have complained to both the Ghana National Highways Authority and the Ga District Assembly (Council) over the years to no avail. Indeed the National Highways Authority told us residents that they had to build the road first before constructing the drains and that these 2 projects even fell under 2 different Ministries. Furthermore, the MUUS saw-millers  next to us, who are relative newcomers to  the area, did not allow space on their adjacent land to ours for a gutter. Infact by dumping sawdust on the drainage river (Brenyah River) they re-directed part of this river though my house and garden – which broke my wall – they are even now claiming my garden house and BAPMAF premises is their ‘natural’ gutter.
The resulting flooding on the 26 Oct was unprecedented with almost 6 feet of water entering our land and 4.5 feet into the downstairs house and premises where some of the BAPMAF archival holdings are kept. I was in Mali at the time at an African popular music conference organized by the French Institute in conjunction with and the Malian Ministry of Culture. On returning to Ghana on the 29 Oct I met my family perched upstairs in the BAPMAF exhibition space. They had escaped drowning by 2 minutes due to a timely call from a neighbor upstream who noticed the water build up and got them to leave the house and flee upstairs
Some of the losses are as follows
· Approx 10-20% 0f BAPMAF archival holding lost. Some we are still trying to dry and salvage.
· Loss of all electronic equipment including materials donated a few years ago to the BAPMAF archives by the German Goethe Institute for a digitization project.
· Loss of car, backup generator, various pumps, CD players, DVD players, 4 track recording machines, scanners, printers, record players etc . etc .
· Losses of masses of personal property of myself, my wife and son.
The house and area is now too dangerous for human habitation (i.e. residential purposes at ground level ). All this due to the short sightedness of the civic authorities in not insisting the National Highways Authority build storm gutters alongside the highway they have been constructing for seven years (which incidentally also went under water on the  26 Oct ). And also the civic authorities inability to stop individuals or saw-millers etc from building on or blocking natural water flows.
As this is not likely to be resolved in the near future I have no recourse but to remove myself and my family from the downstairs  house that myself and my father before me have been living since the 1970’s – and to temporarily move upstairs to  the BAPMAF exhibition room and unoccupied shop area - and   later maybe find rented property where we will not be drowned like rats
So my immediate plans are as follows :-
· Find temporary storage space for the BAPMAF archives and temporary accommodation until the government enacts policies that will alleviate the flooding in the Ofankor-Taifa area through the construction of storm gutters and the stopping of sawdust and other obstacles being dumped (or even built) in the natural drainage areas
· Build circa 200 feet of reinforced concrete wall with gravel embankment to immediately  protect the Bokoor/BAPMAF proper from  flooding – so I and the BAPMAF archives can at least operate in the upstairs properties. This wall alone will cost around 7000$
· To replace tens of thousand of dollars of lost equipment, computers, car, scanners, cameras, digital record player, stabilizers, chargers and 12 volt battery backup system, slide projector etc etc
· At some point I will write to various individuals and organizations that donated  books, videos and DVD’s and music materials to BAPMAF to send me , if possible, replacement copies.
Now is a critical time and I would greatly appreciate your suggestions on how I could overcome this catastrophe and move forward. If you have any suggestions as how I could proceed – including any agencies, individuals, organizations who could assist financially in this reconstruction as well as  replacing lost books and music this would be most appreciated. Publicising and circulating this appeal on your networks and  blogs would also be most welcome - as would letters of sympathy.
Yours sincerely John Collins (Prof)

Ps Please send money to support the essential work of rebuilding this unique archive to my UK bank account at follows
NATWEST, Tottenham Court Rd Branch
P.O.BOX 2EA 45 Tottenham Court Rd. London WIT 2EA
Reward Reserve Account of E .J. Collins
Account number 265922a58
Sort Code 56-00-31
Swift code NWBK GB 2L IBAN number GB16 NWBK 56003126 5922 58


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  2. I thought I will share Prof. Ato Quayson's(University of Toronto) response in an e-mail on a thread I facilitate. Great example as always!!!

    Dear All,

    I second Lloyd's appeal for donations to support the rehabilitation of John Collins's Bokoor Studio and archive. Even though he is not likely to remember this, I had the pleasure of John at least once while in the UK when he came to give talks at my former university. John is one of those few people of whom it can be said that he has utter dedication to what he thinks is important, in this case, Ghanaian music. Apart from being a world-renowned scholar, he has also been a great supporter of the music scene in the country. And this from someone who could ply his interests very well in his own country and be much better supported. I have read his work and admire him greatly as a scholar and a person. When I was growing up in the 80s, all the rage was about Faisal Helwani, another great of Ghanaian music. But John Collins has in many ways gone well beyond Helwani in what he has done for Ghanaian music.

    But there is also another aspect to this sad case that I hope will not escape notice. His Bokoor Studio is situated on the Accra-Nsawam Road, not far from Taifa Junction. This road is under construction and has been so for a few years now, at least since the final two years of the Kufuor Administration. The million dollar question then is: How is it that the area around a road that is the object of millions of dollars of funding be subjected to flooding. Is the drainage system that is being incorporated into the said road not adequate to prevent such flooding. And if it isn't, are there not serious questions to be asked about the engineering that has gone into the building of this road?

    I am making a cheque to the Ghana Studies Council at once, but even if people are not able to contribute in cash they should make an effort at showing John that we appreciate all that he has done for our heritage and stand by him during what must be an hour of great bewilderment and confusion.