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Ghana’s Concert Party Theatre

Summary of Book by C.M. Cole, 2001
Published by Indiana University Press (Bloomington, United States)

Ghanaian concert party is a form of travelling popular theatre, a tradition of twentieth- century West Africa. It consisted of variety shows using material from American movies, Latin gramophone records, African-American spirituals and highlife songs. The actors wore minstrel make-up and played a trickster similar to the famous Ananse character of Ghanaian storytelling. Between the 1900s and 1930s, concert parties went through changes, including new audiences, new venues, new formats, and styles. The English language was replaced with Ghanaian languages. Audiences shifted from Westernised coastal Africans to inland working-classes and rural populations. European songs were replaced with African pop music. The format shifted from vaudeville sketches to an event that lasted till dawn. Between the 1950s and 60s, the genre was developed to a format still used today that includes commercially successful productions. Larger casts replaced small trios, elaborate stories replaced sketches and British propaganda replaced Ghanaian cultural nationalism.