For the thousands of celebrants of the 2019 Christmas season in the Volta Region, Ghana and across the world, this year’s Boxing Day, as sure as death, would go down the annals of history as a most (if not the most) memorable one, perhaps unmatched by any other.
The morning of Thursday, December 26, 2019, like any other morning in this time of year, was mildly overlain by the primary northeast trade winds, occasionally blowing a deep stream of dry, often dusty air over anyone that encountered it. Care-free kids busied themselves with their usual spirited frolics in their parents’ sandy compounds and backyards and were soon generously blessed with pale, whitish wind-washed legs, arms, and faces. The morning showed little indication of what was to come later in the day.
Global FM LTD. and Volta 1 TV had both been running an ad about an impending event, BorborborFest 2019, and the ad said the grand finale of the said event was slated for that day. In a region where natives treasure their nativity and identity, naturally, this event generated a lot of interest; and if you were one of those ‘absentee’ Voltarians (having been away from your fatherland for so long) you were particularly excited about the prospect of enjoying, all over again, what you’ve been missing for so long.
Just as had been promised by the organizers, a peek inside the inner perimeters of Woezor Hotel later that morning showed the entire environment enveloped in a graceful, dignified and thoroughly campy celebration. The tone and mood were apparently set for a showdown!
The clock ticked and time flew by. Gradually Woezor Hotel began to swell to capacity as patrons of all age groups began to make entry into the premises. Soon, one by one, each of the twelve zonal giants made their entry onto the event grounds The wonder and awe of the inner perimeter, for the first time, were diminished by the sheer spirit and verve with which each group, adorned in assorted colourful regalia and hairdo, made their glorious entry.
Time slowed to a painful crawl, as the sun assumed a most punishing posture of a scorching shower. Gradually everything fell into place and each group took position under their designated sheds; the stage was finally set, it was about to go down!
For some of us, the privilege of witnessing the preliminary contests, (via the live streams on Facebook) had put us in a uniquely pleasant position to know exactly what to expect from whom. Truth be told, however, each of the fourteen finalists had their own unique kettles of advantage. There were the venerable, flexible and extraordinarily ‘heavy-buttocked’ ladies of Kayira. But as far as ‘bottom-power’ endowment was concerned, these Kayira goddesses would face stiff competition from the equally soft-bodied, dexterous and equally (if not more) endowed ladies of the Dzidefo Group and the Royal Youth Club, all of Akatsi zone. Beyond this significant physical attribute, however, you could not easily write off the skillful young dancers of Gefia (who were champions of their zone by the way) or the extremely pretty Maranatha ladies of Awudome Anyirawase who, for all intents and purposes, could pull a huge surprise. Take the energetic and engaging performances dished out by the Adaklu Torda Agbenunyale ladies at the prelims, for example; analyze that alongside the red-gold-green kitchen-stool formation dancers of Dodome Avexa (Unity Band) and you would see that it really was not over until it was over!
One very important thing of note was that cultural displays are contrived ensembles that serve to dramatize basic cultural values, thereby contributing to the socialization of participants and encouraging communal loyalty and social cohesion. Besides these traditional acts, such as we were about to witness, were extremely flexible institutions of display, and they provide constant opportunities for each competing group to display newly composed music or new and unique dance formations; and so hey, who was I to judge a book by its cover?
The MCs, two master craftsmen of some media repute, soon kicked the event into gear and things began to take shape. This person said this and that person delivered that speech and . . .
It was time for the first performance of the evening; Royal Youth Club of Akatsi Agbedrafor would do the honours! Lest you forget, remember this was one of the few groups whose ladies also had the grace of God in abundance in their waists and buttocks; what a beautiful way to start the evening! Nukaaaa!!
The Royal Youth Club did not disappoint at all; except to say that as someone who had witnessed their performance at the preliminary stage, they had, rather sadly, done very little to improve upon their zonal performance, both in terms of dance moves and costume! Sorry to say, but it’s just the truth laaa!
Borborbor (or Akpese, as is its indigenous name) is a social, cultural and recreational dance. For almost all the participating groups, the ladies started the dance in a single formation, standing behind one another in a straight line that was eventually woven into two or three distinct performing lines. The dancers made elegant movement of the feet, giving enough power and push through their thighs into their already-vibrating waists which eventually spread the vibrator anointing into the usually heavily-endowed and free-flowing buttocks, chaaaaiii; it was quite the spectacle laaaa! It soon became clear that most of the groups took a conscious deliberate decision to use those ladies that had more of the backside anointing, as frontline dancers, and for good reason. The men, obviously disadvantaged by their overly stiff, muscular body anatomy, just settled on the few dance steps they could muster, or in other cases, simply followed in the series of energetic performances dished out by the adorable ladies.
One after the other, all groups came, captivating and enthralling patrons in their own unique ways. A few of the groups did not really impress the way I expected them to. It was quite sad seeing some of these groups, which were so impressive in their individual zone contests, underperform at the grand finale! But a good number of them displayed performances that warmed up the audience and held them at the edge of their seats, despite the long hours.
As a lover of native folk songs and of true and proper akpese tunes, my best group among all (with regard to a wonderful rendition of such ancient songs) was the Asorgli Unity and Love Group of Ho Bankoe. ‘Masa’, these guys showed everyone that indeed they came from no less a kingdom than the Asorgli State and that they had been sent by no mean a ruler but the Agnogbomefia, Torgbe Afede XIV himself! Charrrleee, ‘come and see’ energized drumming and dancing paa blended with bl3ma ha kpakpawo (ancient folk music) with a captivating accompaniment of dance-drama; it was quite a delight watching them. No wonder they were among the top three.
Then came the venerable Nutifafa Group of Kayira; they came. . .with their ladies. . . those ladies that you and I discussed a few paragraphs ago. It was pure joy as they stepped and twisted, shaking and letting loose their ‘everything’ to the glee and glory of jubilant male enthusiasts! The sheer bravado of these ladies earn, climbing onto the dais and shaking their ‘things’ to the very eager faces of the judges and other dignitaries on the high table, was something else. The way they coordinated their drum beats and steps, exploding into vivid colourful choreographed movements made this event one of a few standard fantasies in which patrons were all too eager to participate.
And just when we thought we had seen it all, the organizers let out of their bag another mind-blower; the presence of Enam, the first runner up of the 2019 edition of TV3’s Ghana’s Most Beautiful reality show – a young lady so beloved by many, especially the youth – was announced. The excitement that greeted her entry was so tumultuous that if even if you had been exhausted before this announcement, that exhaustion was summarily cured! She took the stage, said a few things to over a thousand attentive pairs of ears and took the dance floor, flanked by a multitude of traditional rulers and political dignitaries.
For me as a citizen of this beautiful land, the take-home should not be as much the excitement that this event has generated as it should be on how to support the organizers, Volta 1 Television, to better consolidate and build this into the next big thing in the region. The economic benefit of mounting such exhibitions of our unique culture has got to be measured against the significant success chalked by Volta 1 TV in this maiden edition of the BorborborFest, and the potentials thereof. From what I witnessed and what the organizers tell me, the event’s general thematic focus was finding a way to harness the essence of our culture and unique values in all forms, and make the same economically available to whoever is attracted to buy into it. To this end, according to one of the speakers at the event, participants were encouraged to make their acts reflect a truly unique Volta identity in grandiose terms.
It was thus not surprising that these high-energy and high-spirited troupes thrilled the audience with a mix of cultural education, performance, and audience participation, peaking their interest.
What I witnessed at Woezor Hotel on the Boxing Day, for me, is enough to make a very sacred New Year resolution: ‘as much as depends on me, I shall be in the Volta Region on every Boxing Day for as long as Volta 1 Television and their allied partners keep this beautiful initiative – the V1-TV/Heritage Group BorborborFest – alive.
A very satisfied Voltarian