Speaking for the Chief Okyeame-Reading Summary

Reading Summary

This summary is on Okyeame (plural: akyeame). Okyeame is the diplomat and orator of the chief. It is a common name among the leaders of West African countries. This leader is the spokesman of the chief or king. In Ghana, all formal communication is from the individual to the okyeame who relays the message to the king (Yankah 25). The king relays the response to the okyeame who explains it to the individual. The Okyeame plays a critical role in the political and social interactions of the community. He represents a form of speech that uses imagery, idioms, parables and metaphors to communicate (Yankah 45). His position shows the hierarchal nature of leadership in West Africa while his oratory skills create mystery, awe and respect for the kingship. The history of diplomacy in West Africa lies in the evolution of politics in socio-communities. This is in the area of mediation and the effect of visual codes like carved staffs in Akan community. Formal speaking impacted the social and political parts of the Akan. The use of stylistic devices made the okyeame valuable in religious and political functions (Yankah 84). The evolution of okyeame saw the emergence of female akyeame. This marked great cultural significance of gender. The functions of Okyeame have a direct link of triadic communication with the chief. The methods of presentation also relay different messages and have the desired impact, caused by the dramatic effects of the presentation. The akyeame mask integrity and genuineness in their orations and make it difficult to distinguish between the intent of the king from the underlying intent of his okyeame (Yankah 127).

Nnwonkoro is a music genre that grew from an informal recreation activity to organized performance among the Akan (Ampene, 17). It was an activity for the night but the creativity process transformed it into a daytime activity. This music has the same instrumental accompaniment for every song. Personal and social context inform the creative process in nnwonkoro. The two contenxts include natural disasters, personal life experiences, proverbs, sayings and dreams (Ampene, 41). The composition of this music involves a call-and- response convention that creates beautiful and attractive music. Understanding a song unit requires that one grasp their melodic structure and modal orientation.Nnwonkoro performers manifest high creativity levels in expressing this music as part of verbal performance (Ampene, 127). This genre is popular among women and girls in the Akan society. They use verbal expressions to bring out the feelings in the music. They also use stylistic devices like metaphors and idioms to make the music interesting and create rhythms and rhymes. The creative process begins with preparation and involves pre composition activities and composition activities. Incubation, Illumination, Evaluation and Implementation follow this step and produce onnwonkoro that challenges the skill and competence of okyeame (Ampene, 155). The contemporary issues surrounding onnwonkoro begin with participation of male composers in all aspects of onnwonkoro. It provides self-esteem for male participants because it is a highly valued activity. The onnwonkoro is a tradition that includes performance composition and composition during performance. It is dynamic and greatly maximizes the creativity of composers. Okyeame and onnwonkoro have a complimentary relationship. Okyeame like Opayin Kwame Boakye of the Asante king court ended up becoming an onnwonkoro composer (Ampene,183). He was fluent in praising kings and chiefs during festivals and his mastery of proverbs, imagery, metaphors and praise of royal personalities. These are important elements of culture passed from generation to generation through story-telling and attending festivals.

Work Cited

Yankah, Kwesi. Speaking for the Chief: Ȯkyeame and the Politics of Akan Royal Oratory. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1995. Print.

Ampene, Kwasi. Female Song Tradition and the Akan of Ghana: The Creative Process in Nnwonkoro. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Print.