It’s now almost three months since the disastrous Accra floods of October 26th hit my house and the BAPMAF music archives. So in this letter I want to update the situation and also thank the people who contributed through sympathetic and morale-boosting emails and through financial donations and other forms of support.
I spent a frantic first month trying to save as much of the BAPMAF archives as possible that had gone into the mud. As a result I estimate now that only 10% of the BAPMAF holdings were lost and these were mainly cassette tapes. Not quite as bad as when I first saw the devastation done to the house. I also spent the Christmas/New Year holiday having to redo a lot of the teaching materials (also damaged by the floods) I use at the Music Dept of the University of Ghana where I have been teaching for 16 years. Furthermore, I had to dig out from the mud the notes I was putting together on a new book I am working on called West African Afro Jazz Pioneers that is to be a sequel to my West African Dance Band Pioneers that is being by published by Cassava Republic Press in Abuja, Nigeria this year. Finally over the last few months I have also moved all the BAPMAF archives and remaining (much of it damaged) technical equipment upstairs so nothing of value is left downstairs.
PHYSICAL REPAIRS THAT HAVE BEEN DONE AND NEED TO BE DONE
I have partially repaired the 100 feet of cement block wall that was undermined by the neighbouring sawmillers that allowed flood water to enter the house. This wall is now made of reinforced concrete. This was an expensive venture and monies from friends and relatives as well as the PayPal system and Toronto show has helped (see below). We now have to proceed and finance the strengthening of another 200 feet of wall and also lay down a lot of gravel embankments and other filling in of the land.
BAPMAF WEBSITE IS BACK
Even though myself and my son lost all our computers and internet connection due to the floods, we put the www.bapmaf.com website back online in early January. This had been disconnected in early October so as to upgrade it – and then the flood struck.
WE WERE LUCKY
Luckily on the 26th October I was in Mali at a conference on pop music in Bamako – if not I would have probably convinced my wife and son not to go upstairs – as I have been living in the house for 30 years and never had more than a foot or so flooding, even with the most severe rainstorm. Therefore we would have, in all likeliness, stayed downstairs, and been drowned, as the force of the almost 6 foot water, as it crashed in within seconds, smashed open the house and archives doors and turned all the furniture and shelves upside down.
Lucky we have an upstairs premises (i.e. the BAPMAF seminar exhibition area and some unused shop space). Although the upstairs was not built for living accommodation and we are now sort of camping in the place we were lucky to have such a second story. Some other people in the area are not so fortunate.
Lucky the floods occurred at the very end of the rainy season and so we have had well over two months of literally no rain, which has given us a lot of time to dry all our personal belongings as well as for me to save documents and CDs, etc. that had been swept into the mud.
GOVERNMENT CONCERN – TEMPORARY RELOCATION OF BAPMAF EXHIBITION
In December I approached the Council of State about the situation with the BAPMAF archives. As a result the Director of the National Museum in Accra told me immediately after the New Year holiday that they are working on a way of getting the exhibition section of the BAPMAF music archives to the National Museum, at least for the meantime while I try and repair the BAPMAF premises at Bokoor House. This BAPMAF highlife exhibition includes an illustrated history of highlife music mounted on 15 large boards, scores of posters and likewise of framed photos – and also old instruments and other physical memorabilia related to Ghanaian and other African popular dance music, musical theatre and neo-traditional music.
For the repairs I have already done to Bokoor House/BAPMAF premises I have received some financial help. These include personal help from close friends and relatives, as well two blogpsots that let the general public know about the disaster and direct those who want to financially assist the BAPMAF recovery program through bank transfer or PayPal. The two blogpsots are:
The first was operated by the American Public Radio ‘Afropop’ show (Sean Barlow, Mark Levine, Banning Eyre and others), and the second was set up the Americans Ryan O’Connor and Eric Johnson who created an emergency blog for BAPMAF. The resulting PayPal payments have amounted so far to around $1200 US. The other source of help was a show put up by Batuki Music (see blog below) in Toronto by a group of Canadian African music fans and Ghanaian musicians that featured the Ghanaian Afrafanto band of Toronto. This benefit show on the 11th December generated $1070CDN for BAPMAF.
FUTURE OF THE BAPMAF ARCHIVES/BOKOOR HOUSE
If finances allow I can probably save the house and archives, but will have to switch its orientation around. Before the floods I stayed in the main house and an adjoining long-room with my family and which was also where the BAPMAF audio-lab, digital documentation room and library were situated and BAPMAF’s musical, photographic and printed holdings were stored. The upstairs premises were where the BAPMAF public seminar/workshop/exhibition room and photo gallery were situated. Since the flood we are reversing this state of affairs. My family now resides upstairs in part of the BAPMAF exhibition areas (and adjoining unused shop space). Also now upstairs is the BAPMAF library and all it precious archival holdings and remaining technical equipment. The downstairs is empty at the moment, but in the future the house can be used for visitors as a seminar/workshop/exhibition space. Exhibition photos and items will be hung above the flood water level and only water resistant plastic furniture will be kept there for the public. Projectors, sound system, etc. will be brought from upstairs to downstairs for any public event and then returned. It is because it will take some time to sort this out – as major physical repairs have to be done to the property first (walls, embankment, etc.) – that I am arranging with the National Museum to temporarily relocate the BAPMAF exhibition section.
Again I would like to thank all those who responded sympathetically to the news about the plight of BAPMAF. And especially those who have or are sending materials (books, CDs) to replace the lost ones – and those who have responded financially or are promising to do so.
All the best, John Collins