Client New England and Canadian Maritimes Regional Meeting of the American Academy of Religion
Categories Conferences
Location Boston, MA
Date 2017

Accra is a sonically enchanting city suffused with jarringly intense sounds. The most outlandish aurality emanates from hundreds of Pentecostal/Charismatic congregations mushrooming in the city. Once every year, however, as Accra’s autochthonous Ga population prepares for its annual festival, traditional priests announce a period of peace and deliberation that collectively spans three months between May and August. To guarantee a comfortable environment for the deities, the Ga follow strict sonic regulations, which they also impose on the non-Ga inhabitants of Accra. These sonic restrictions have caused serious confrontations between the Ga “traditionalists” and the Charismatic Churches in the late 1990s; the latter were unwilling to submit to the demands of the “heathen” gods. This paper explores the meaning and implications of the spiritual politics that transpired between the two groups at the turn of the century. The first part briefly outlines sonic theologies of Ga indigenous religion and Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity: how are sound, noise and silence defined in the context of the respective religious traditions? Further on, the reader is introduced to specific incidents of physical clashes between the two religious groups and how the state has been involved in the regulation of “the ban on drumming.” The final section investigates how the confrontations and state initiatives have affected the meaning, content, and significance of the celebration.