Funerals are always a solemn moment for families, friends, and mourners to say their final farewell to a departed soul, as death is seen as a transitional period for every human being to the spirit world.
Most ethnic groupings in Ghana put a lot of effort into the preparation for the funeral event.
The loss of a family member comes with additional expenditure, which often covers coffin, undertakers, mortuary fees depending on how long the mortal remain was kept in the morgue, canopies, chairs, accessories, and dress for the deceased, preparation of the grave, acquisition of death certificate, and the list of merchandize goes on and on.
Food, drinks, music, and a matching funeral cloth has now become a must with some even customizing the cloths and drinks, as well as sharing souvenirs with a picture of the dead to sympathizers who often made a donation at the ‘funeral table’ to contribute their widows’ mite to wipe the tears off the faces of the bereaved family.
Funeral rites are said to be the traditional ceremonies performed in connection with the burial of a departed family member, these rites commence right from the day person passed on.
It includes bathing the corpse, dressing it, and the actual burial, and beyond. Such funeral rites differ from one ethnic group to the other.
The Krobo people are made up of the Manya and Yilo divisions, geographically located in the Eastern Region but are recognized under the Ga-Dangme ethnolinguistic group of Ghana.
Just like other ethnic groups in Ghana, the Krobos’ have their own funeral rites, this includes the “yoosedofiemi” literally meaning the drumming and dancing of the daughter.
Otsaame Akuerter, a linguist for one of the clan houses at Manya Kporgunor Ojadornyaa on Krobo land, gave a smile and reminisced the joy of performing the ‘yoosedofiemi’ funeral rite explaining that the drumming and dancing are to honour the memory of the departed by their son-in-law in appreciation for giving birth to a beautiful daughter and nurturing her to discharge her wife duties to the man and his entire family perfectly.
Even though the rite is known to be performed by the sons-in-law, the emphasis is on the ‘Dede’ the first girls of the departed father or mother-in-law, the Dede must not necessarily be a biological daughter but those they might have inherited as daughters following the death of their siblings.
The yoosedofiami which is also known as the “kuusumi doo” to wit customary dance could be performed on a Saturday that the burial took place but most families often perform it on a Sunday after the burial especially in the late afternoon.
Types of Yoosedofiami
There are two types of this customary dance, these are the ‘sikado’ and ‘miedo’ while respectively sika doo “money dance” is performed without the sounding of a drum, the miedo “drum dance” is done accompanied by the beating of drums.
In the past, according to Madam Mercy Tetteh, an octogenarian, they used traditional drums such as the talking drums for the dance, but now it has been modernized and people are therefore allowed to hire the services of brass band players to play for them to perform the dance.
Unlike the sikado which is said to be expensive as the in-law pays more money to the woman’s family, and does not necessarily partake in the dance as it’s only the woman who does the dance, the miedo on the other hand, see the man accompanied by friends and families take to the dance floor, after which the wife also take their turn to show their dancing skills.
The dancing process
As mourners and visitors troop into the family house and settle down, the elders take their seat for the dance, at the appointed time the son-in-law together with his family being led by a linguist or elderly person comes and present a bottle of gin or schnapps to the wife’s family to ask permission to dance.
When the permission is granted, the man who is dressed in Kente cloth, with matching headgear, and authentic Krobo beads is ushered in to take his seat. Afterwards, his wife also dressed in similar regalia to that of her husband also entered the courtyard.
The wife however is ushered in with a woman carrying a hamper of assorted drinks (the carrier must be someone who has been married with all needed marriage rites performed) accompanied by clapping and singing of folklore (in the case of sikado) some of the words of the folklore are “okumadjan ooo omaa tukadjan” which means the woman is as beautiful and smart as the antelope and therefore can jump skillfully just like it.
During the dance, the woman would customary sit-down temporary on the mourners one after the other in appreciation for their support, the mourners on the other hand were expected to give them some voluntary monies before they get up. Permission is sought again with a bottle of gin, beer, or schnapps from the elders before the dancing team is discharged.
The same process and dressing also apply to the miedo with the only difference being the provision of drum music and the man being the first to go through the dancing process, after which the woman also shows her dancing skills.
Culture is the way of life of a group of people, this covers their beliefs, dressing, food, rites and among other things, as Ghanaians, we all belong to one ethnic group or the other we must as a people promote our traditions and culture especially the ones that do not cause harm to any person just like the yoosedofiami of the Krobos.
It is a beautiful rite to behold especially when listening to the words of the traditional songs and observing the traditional adornment and accessories, the dancing skills will surely put a smile on your face after all the sorrows that surround the seeing off of a departed soul.
Always spare time to join in the dance especially when the music for the yoosedofiami is coming from a brass band, it is so refreshing to the soul of the living.