Two or three times a semester, Ashesi’s Norton Motulsky Hall takes on a different feel: dimmed lights, chairs arranged in an intimate arc, and a keenly engaged audience taking in a rich mix of musical performances.
Welcome to the Piano Café.
Started over a year ago, initially as a fundraiser for the Berekuso Music Project, a student-run initiative aimed at teaching children in the Berekuso township to play music, today, the Piano Café has become a hotly patronized affair on campus. Jointly organised by the Ashesi Chorale Group and the MusiecXchange club, the series is a hub for musical expression, featuring a variety of performances from students, staff and sometimes guests artistes.
“In thinking about the sustainability of the Berekuso Music Project, we experimented on a number of ways to raise funds and awareness,” said Derick Omari, founder of the Berekuso Music Project. “Through this process, we also realized the Ashesi community could do with a cosy space where students could enjoy good music. From jazz, classical, Afro jazz, blues to any kind of music that will help them switch from their normal routines, we figured people would benefit a lot from this.”
Over time, the Piano Café has gained a large following among members of the community. Every episode takes on a slightly different vibe. For Valentine’s Day season, performances centre around love and late last semester, a concert was held in memory of a student who passed away. What remains constant, with every episode, is the rich eclectic music from the performers and the escape it provides.
“We organize the events in themed episodes so every time we can engage the community on something new and different to enjoy,” said Derrick. “We intend to create stories through our performances, and give people something to smile about."
For the audience, mostly students, the Piano Café has become an escape from the routine of work, projects and assignments. For others as well, besides merely enjoying the performances, it has become an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones.
“Besides the fact that I generally like music and enjoy the performances, it’s soothing and relaxing to be there,” shared Nana Egyirba Aggrey '20. “From the selections to the performances, it really is a great break from the daily hustle of student life.”
“I was seeking an opportunity to overcome stage fright, and also sing some of my emotions away,” said Oyo Glover ’21, a regular performer. “Even though my first performance was a bit flat, with my nerves all over the place, the subsequent ones have been pretty good. It was also a great opportunity to get to hear some good jazz. This way, I get to do two things that warm my heart."