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Entertainment of Monday, 6 January 2014

Source: Kouame Koulibaly

Women’s band goes through changes

When the all-female Dzesi - Women of Colour band kicked off the year for patrons of the +233 Jazz Bar and Grill on January 1 after a six-month break from the venue, the band comprised of only four members.

They held their own and played their usual mix of jazz, highlife, funk, Latin, reggae and other styles. The patrons sat back and enjoyed the music alongside their food and drinks while some of them heartily danced their way into the New Year.

It was obviously not the full set of hands that followers of the band had known. Admittedly, there had been occasional absentees at some gigs in the past but leader Della Hayes was not ready to give much away when asked why only four of them were on stage.

“For now, this is the Dzesi band and we could be this number for a while to come,” was all the information she was willing to offer.

It was in April 2009 at the Alliance Francaise in Accra that the Dzesi band made its first public appearance and was warmly welcomed for the innovation of only women singing and playing all instruments on stage.

At full force, the Dzesi band comprised Della Hayes (lead vocals); Sita Korley (keyboards); Abena Pomaa (lead guitar); Judith Agbottah (bass guitar); Joana Denaka (trumpet); Sarah Owusu (percussion); Wendy Opoku and Sarah Aryee (drums) and Vida Feehi Ofoli (percussion and flute).

The band played at major music events including Music of Ghanaian Origin (MOGO) concert, Kojo Antwi 24th Night, Mac Tontoh Tribute Night, Vlisco Awards Night and Becca’s Girl Talk Show. It also entertained guests at many social events and played at festivals in Benin, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire.

One of the drummers, Sarah Aryee is an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialist with a regular job so it was understandable when she could not be available for all gigs.

The first real sign that an unpleasant storm was brewing in the camp of the ladies was when trumpeter Joana Denaka suddenly left the group in 2011.

Sometime after that, percussionist Sarah Owusu’s appearance with the band became less and less regular until it ceased completely.

Last June, the band which was then made up of six regulars, announced at a gig at +233 that it was taking a little break. The official explanation from the band’s management was that it was normal for all businesses to pause and take stock and chart new paths for the future.

Unofficially, followers of the band had gleaned information about indiscipline, habitual lateness to rehearsal and divisive tendencies on the part of some of the members.

They guessed that the supposed ‘little break’ was partly an interval to weed out the perceived bad nuts from the fold.

“Once it is a human institution, there are bound to be personal differences. We have, however, come far with the group and every decision taken now could only be for harmony in the group and a progressive move into the years ahead. There is still a long road to travel,” stated a member of the band’s management.

“There has not been a formal decision to keep the band permanently at the present strength. A few more hands will definitely come in. They could be some of the earlier members or fresh ones. We are still working things out.”

The leader, Della Hayes, said they have collectively proved that a good swinging band need not be made up of only men or a combination of men and women.

“There have been some challenges but we are on a journey to succeed in a big way and we will,” she confidently added.

The band’s followers wish them well and cannot wait to hear them at full blast once again.