Nana Korantema Ayeboafo began to learn percussion by playing on everything in the kitchen that made sound. As a young adolescent, she took formal lessons from two different artists in her North Philadelphia community who had studied with master drummers Baba Olatunji from Nigeria and Saka Acquaye from Ghana, respectively. She was determined and practiced every day as a child, adolescent and young adult.
She spent 7 years in Ghana, where she studied with master drummers, learning Akan drumming techniques in the context of religious and healing practices. During these years, she trained in traditional healing and therapeutic styles, working especially with Nana Okomfohene Oparebea, priest of the Akonnedi shrine, and mastering language, traditions and protocols as well as drumming and dance. Nana Korantemaa became an initiate and has continued in her training for more than 21 years. Today, she serves as a representative of this matriarch, and spearheads the activities of the Asona Aberade shrine, the first Akan shrine here in Philadelphia.
Her knowledge of percussion was also deepened through her experiences as a dancer. When she was with the Arthur Hall Dance Ensemble, there were times when she danced as much as 16 hours a day, then turned around to drum for 5–6 hours. During this time period, she worked as head musician and director of concerts and music score for Arthur Hall Dance Ensemble. In this country, she has worked professionally with a wide range of respected African diaspora percussionists and dancers, including, Mongo Santamaria, Geoffrey Holder, Judith Jamison, Carmen de Lavalah, Alhaji Bai Konte, Greg “Peache” Jarman, Robert Artis and others. She formed the first female percussion ensemble in Philadelphia in 1975, one of the vanguard of African American women to reclaim traditional percussion. She writes, “Most importantly, I am a woman doing a kind of music that is historically performed by men.” She performs on various hand drums, including conga, and on sekere, bells, marimbas and vocals. She participated in the PFP’s Women’s Music Project in 2001–2003. She received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2008.
The drum was my introduction to my life: Nana Korantemaa Ayeboafo. Essay by Elizabeth Sayre in Works in Progress (Summer/Fall 2003) Special “Women’s Music Project” issue.