Ghana's Concert Party Theatre

Ghana's Concert Party Theatre

Catherine M. Cole
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/11/2001
Format: Paperback 26 b&w photos, 3 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21436-2
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2002 Barnard Hewitt Award—Honorable Mention, 2002 Herskovitz Award Nominee

... succeeds in conveying the exciting and fascinating character of the concert party genre, as well as showing clearly how this material can be used to rethink a number of contemporary theoretical themes and issues." —Karin Barber

Under colonial rule, the first concert party practitioners brought their comic variety shows to audiences throughout what was then the British Gold Coast colony. As social and political circumstances shifted through the colonial period and early years of Ghanaian independence, concert party actors demonstrated a remarkable responsiveness to changing social roles and volatile political situations as they continued to stage this extremely popular form of entertainment. Drawing on her participation as an actress in concert party performances, oral histories of performers, and archival research, Catherine M. Cole traces the history and development of Ghana’s concert party tradition. She shows how concert parties combined an eclectic array of cultural influences, adapting characters and songs from American movies, popular British ballads, and local story-telling traditions into a spirited blend of comedy and social commentary. Actors in blackface, inspired by Al Jolson, and female impersonators dramatized the aspirations, experiences, and frustrations of their audiences. Cole’s extensive and lively look into Ghana’s concert party provides a unique perspective on the complex experience of British colonial domination, the postcolonial quest for national identity, and the dynamic processes of cultural appropriation and social change. This book will be essential reading for scholars and students of African performance, theatre, and popular culture.

Author Bio

Catherine M. Cole is Associate Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published numerous articles on African theatre and has collaborated with filmmaker Nathan Kwame Braun on "passing girl; riverside," a video essay on the ethical dilemmas of visual anthropology.

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

Note on Orthography
1. Introduction
2. Reading Blackface in West Africa: Wonders Taken for Signs
3. "The Rowdy Lot Created the Usual Disturbance": Concerts and Emergent Publics, 1895-1927
4. "Ohia Ma Adwennwen," or "Use Your Gumption!": The Pragmatics of Performance, 1927- 1945
5. Improvising Popular Traveling Theatre: The Poetics of Invention
6. "This is Actually a Good Interpretation of Modern Civilization": Staging the Social Imaginary, 1946-1966