Ghana Airways by Hakeem Adam was shown at IDFA DocLab 2022 as an experimental, non-linear audio installation with accompanying visuals, but it is also available online on Bandcamp as a linear, one-hour, 3-part audio series. The piece is Adam’s search for his post-colonial Ghanaian identity, and he’s interested in exploring unique modes of sound design to capture what he refers to as “oral knowledge.”
There was a lot that I did not quite understand when I first listened to this piece, and I got a lot more context and information from the interview that I did with Adam in Amsterdam. So I’d recommend either listening to the episodic series either before and/or after this interview since the narrative is deliberately sparse and self-described as “incoherent” (see below).
Adam says, “I refrain from describing Ghana Airways as a single entity (audio piece, website, installation, research work) [links added].” I also found it helpful to read the associated show notes and research, which wasn’t shown in the context of the IDFA DocLab installation, but perhaps could have been in some fashion as it did provide a lot of additional context for the piece.
I wanted to highlight a couple of quotes from Adam’s writing about Ghana Airways to provide a bit more context:
In trying to understand Ghana, I look to the kind of history Nketia describes as narrative that is neither elementary in form nor presented as coherent. The sonic event in the Ghanaian context, be it through song and ceremony, work or healing, can be translated as one mode of transcribing experience into material, in this case, song. Through the conceptual machine that is Ghana Airways, I give myself the artistic licence to unravel the threads present in some of these songs, the principles and methods of their design and performance, and the social settings of their consumption and reflection… In my study of Ghanaian oral tradition, I am therefore looking to abstract sonic elements as evidence for or against my idea of what Ghana is. The narrative is never intended to be coherent. Rather it offers a mode of thinking, through writing and through sound, that allows the oral tradition to be explored as practice and theory, operating as a material that operates sculpturally in my non-linear and incoherent narrative.Hakeem Adam – Oral Knowledge System > The Nation-State as a Sonic Artefact
Here’s another quote from Adam that describes his quest in understanding his identity:
Indeed, like Bopape and the other sources cited above, Ghana Airways is intended to unfold as a dialogue on a few axes but oscillating around identity politics in the national sense. Identities, no matter how concrete they may be, on a visa or a grant application, are dynamic and fluid, evolving with the concept of their birth… I am therefore interested in dialoguing with the fluid facets of my Ghanaian Identity. By probing the concrete fragments present, for example, in Ghanaian sonic or music traditions. I hope to reach some consensus or cathartic understanding of the principles that organize and characterize this Identity as an ameliorative creative act.Hakeem Adam – Oral Knowledge System > Dialogue in Ghana Airways – Oral Tradition
So in the spirit of the multi-modal nature of this piece, then I’d recommend checking out the original 3-part episodic audio piece, website, research work either before and/or after listening to the interview.
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