Sankusem

San·ku·sem /sahn-ku-sem/

adjective

definition: ‘things about music'

Origin [The Akan language of Ghana]

Beginnings

Sankusem was started by Ghanaian pianist George Francois and British cellist Sally Singer, who met at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, U.K. George introduced Sally to African music folk tunes, as well as to classical compositions deriving from African music, and the two musicians began to dream about one day holding a music festival in Ghana—one that would feature performances of classical music, as well as of compositions that were rooted in African traditions.

2008

In 2008 George registered Sankusem as a Ghanian Non Governmental Organization (NGO). The name ’Sankusem’ was in fact suggested by Professor Nketia as a way to express the many ‘things about music’ that the organization might embark upon. In 2009 George and Sally began to work with American violinist Rachel Barton Pine, herself a champion and exponent of the music of black composers.

2008

In 2008 George registered Sankusem as a Ghanian Non Governmental Organization (NGO). The name ’Sankusem’ was in fact suggested by Professor Nketia as a way to express the many ‘things about music’ that the organization might embark upon. In 2009 George and Sally began to work with American violinist Rachel Barton Pine, herself a champion and exponent of the music of black composers.

2009

In 2009 the trio presented  two performances in New York - a private concert on March 25th, and a public concert at the Poet’s Den Theater on June 26th. That same year George gave a concert in Accra on December 18th, and a lecture recital at the National Theater of Ghana on January 2nd, 2010, These performances and lectures focussed on juxtaposing traditional classical music pieces with works by African classical composers, including works by Nketia.

2019

In September of 2019 Sally visited Ghana to do some teaching and some performances. It so happened that American violinist Cristina Ruotolo was in Ghana at the time on a Fulbright scholarship. Cristina had started coaching a number of musicians at the University of Ghana, and was privately working with members of the National Symphony. She was also working with Julius Richardson, and Teresa Barnes of the Australian High Commission, towards developing the Accra Youth Symphony (AYS). Sally, George, and Cristina met, one thing led to another and a new musical collaboration was born.

2019-continued

With incredible efforts from Teresa Barnes of the Australian High Commission, and from Julius Richardson, Cristina, Sally, and George embarked on a mini-camp in Accra, consisting of private lessons, master classes, and performances. Private lessons and masterclasses at the Australian Ambassador’s residence and at Kinder Paradise Orphanage in Pram Pram were a tremendous success. Three stellar performances - at the American Ambassador’s residence, the Ghana Club, and the Kempinski Hotel - resulted in rave reviews.

2020-2021

It was during the progression of these events that George, Sally, Cristina and Teresa decided to pursue a more intentional music ‘Institute and Festival’ for future years, and to operate under the umbrella of the existing Sankusem NGO. Plans to present the Institute in 2020 were interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Team is currently planning for a 2021 Institute and Festival.

2010

In 2010 Sally and George organized an African music festival in Leavenworth,Washington, partnering with Icicle Creek Music Center, and also with Seattle Pacific University, who offered course credits to student participants. Along with a volunteer administrative team made up of Ms. Sonya Dunn, Ms. Rachel Karnofsky, and Ms. Aja Burrell Woods, they presented a faculty of exceptional performers and scholars of African music, including Obo Addy, Kofi Anang, and Rachel Barton Pine, Professor Nketia and Professor Kofi Agawu.

2011

In 2011 Rachel, Sally, and George undertook a West coast performance tour, after which they recorded the entire violin, cello, and piano compositions of J.H.K.Nketia.

2012 - 2018

For various reasons Sankusem operated sporadically in the years between 2012 and 2019. However, George gave frequent private and public performances, as well as piano lessons or master classes in Accra, often worked with students of his former piano teacher Mrs. Grace Nartey, and occasionally with students of Julius Richardson, a local music teacher and business owner of Genius Hive.