Sand and Ceremony

By Jerry Leake

Sand and Ceremony Sand and the Ceremony is about a Boston percussionist who, after receiving a message in a dream from his recently deceased Ewe drum teacher, Kwakou Afolabi, embarks on a two-month sojourn to learn two Ghanaian music traditions - Ewe, found on the humid coast, and Dagomba, found in the northern, more arid region. During his trip, Mark unwittingly gets more than he bargained for in his studies by participating in expensive Ewe voodoo ceremonies by Kwakou's sons, jeopardizing his travel finances and well-being. The story is about Mark's cultural, musical and spiritual evolution.

Spiral: 267 pages
Edition: GBC Bound
ISBN: 0-927855-14-3
Price: $10.00
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    "Don't look back," Gordon whispered. "If you do, everything will turn bad."
    The voice of my Ewe drum teacher echoed in my mind as we made the midnight trek up the path. I was scared by what he said, yet strangely tempted to look back at the lake where we had conducted the Ewe ju-ju ceremony. What would happen? Would Gordon's ancestors refuse my offering and put a curse on me?
    Gordon had told me that the incantations he had made earlier were going to protect me. But from what?
    Dried sticks cracked under my bare feet. In my hand I held my sandals and a flashlight that he told me to turn off until we reached the Ho road. A full moon marked the silhouettes of trees; rustling leaves sounded like the whispers of ancestral spirits. Large bats circled overhead, confusing my sense of direction. Distracted by an incredible sense of foreboding, I barely heard Gordon's three words of warning, "Don't... look... back..."
    I felt detached from myself. My only sign of relief was the headlights of passing vehicles I saw up ahead on the Ho road. With each cautious step, I moved closer to freedom from his control. Gordon planned on awakening me at five that morning to see if his recently deceased father had removed thirty dollars from under a pile of moss near the lake. But what would Kwakou do with it? Spend it on hair pomade? Come on, Gordon, I'm not an idiot. I had only wanted to learn about Ewe drumming, not Ewe religion. Aside from being my private drum teacher, Gordon Afolabi was also my friend and Kwakou's eldest son. But when does this crazy ceremony end? A pack of goats bleated around me. I flinched as I almost looked back, spoiling Gordon's efforts.
    Something jarred me awake. My airline serving tray was down and covered with water. The passenger in front of me had slammed his seat back, spilling my glass onto my lap. During the flight to Brussels, I kept hoping that the farther I got away from Ghana and the Odami Music Institute, the sooner I would forget about my unsettling voodoo experiences. Looking to my window did not improve matters. I saw nothing but sand; the Sahara'an ocean of sand and blowing dunes with large craters and ripples of petrified waves that reminded me of the bizarre nightmares I'd experienced in Ghana. Seated across the aisle I saw an African gentleman who looked like Gordon's younger brother, Noah. Part of me missed the three Afolabi brothers who were now bitterly distanced from me - I wondered if I could ever heal my relationship with my drum teachers. After closing the shade, I rested my head against the cushion.
    "Excuse me," the woman in my row said, "but could you please open the shade? My son is curious about the desert."
    "Would he like the window seat? I could sit in the aisle."
    "No, thank you. I can only sit in the aisle." Pausing for a moment, she added, "It's a long story." I obliged.
    While flying over the Sahara, I reflected on my life in Boston, thinking about how I'd lost touch with family and friends during my two months in Africa. I recalled the bizarre dream which had led me to Ghana. In it Kwakou had told me of his disappointment that I hadn't visited him and his family in his land before he had died. The next thing I knew, I was calling a travel agent and scheduling appointments for yellow fever and hepatitis vaccinations. And as instructed by my travel physician, two weeks before departure for Africa I took my first weekly anti-malarial pill.
    When I first boarded the plane from Boston to Ghana, I was unaware of the cultural, musical, and spiritual journey I was about to take.