The story of Kweku Ananse and his songs

One day it happened that as Kweku Ananse was going for a stroll in his garden, he heard the mellifluous voice of somebody who seemed to be entertaining other people with songs. It was very early in the morning, at dawn, and it seemed unusual at such an unconscionable hour to hear somebody singing so beautifully. He was carried away by the beauty of the songs only to find that it was the Monkey that was singing them.

Kweku Ananse praised the Monkey for his songs and asked the Monkey to visit him so that he might learn the songs. The Monkey at first hesitated but later agreed to visit Kweku. When the Monkey arrived, Kweku started learning Monkey’s songs one after the other. But his efforts were futile because his voice was husky and, besides, he had no ability at all when it came to singing. Therefore, Kweku made a poor job of the exercise and finally abandoned the effort. However, he was determined not to let the Monkey go away until he had taken advantage of him to make a lot of money.

Kweku Ananse consequently approached the Chief of the town to inform him that he and the Monkey would like to sing in order to entertain the people in the village. In fact, both the Monkey and Kweku sang one song together to the delight of the Chief. What Kweku did was that although he did not know how to sing any of the songs in the Monkey’s large repertoire, he stood very close to the Monkey and kept opening and shutting his mouth to correspond with the Monkey’s as if he was also actually singing, except that no sound came out of his throat.

Kweku was so happy at his success that even before the Chief called an assembly of the people, he was going from house to house with the Monkey singing for money. Each day they collected a fantastic amount of money with the Monkey doing all the singing while Kweku continued mimicking the Monkey’s voice and gestures quite perfectly. But the strange thing was that Kweku, in his greed, never gave the Monkey even a pesewa of the money he collected. Then there was this big assembly of all the people of the village. Both the Monkey and Kweku Ananse sang like one man and very beautifully too. Kweku collected all the money without the slightest remuneration for the Monkey on whose shoulders lay the success or the failure of the Musical Show.

The Monkey was therefore so aggrieved that he decided to teach his friend a lesson since he had so avariciously enriched himself at his expense. The next show was coming up at the next weekend before a gathering of all the people in the district. Preparations were made, and elaborately too; a very spacious place was cleared and seating arrangements were satisfactorily made. On that day, the young and the old attended the function in their gorgeous clothes, and the crowd was as thick as smoke from a heated haystack.

All was set for the singing session. Most people had gone to the function to hear Kweku sing because he had made big headlines as a very accomplished singer. Soon the singing began and the first song was so beautiful that it won a prolonged applause from the audience. Then suddenly the Monkey stopped singing, leaving Kweku Ananse alone opening and shutting his mouth without any sound. People began to wonder what part Kweku was playing in the singing session.

When Kweku turned to his friend, he saw him standing quietly and whispered into his ears to sing on. The Monkey started singing and, as Kweku began his antics again, the Monkey suddenly stopped, leaving Kweku stranded. When the people started laughing, Kweku quickly saw what had happened and he did everything to persuade his friend not to disgrace him, but the Monkey would not sing. Then, all of a sudden, the Monkey announced to the audience that they had reached part of the programme where they would sing individually. So he would sing first and Kweku would also sing. The Monkey started and sang with such grace and elegance that the crowd surged forwards and backwards to obtain a full view of his face. He received a tremendous ovation and as the cheers died down, there was a general call for his friend Kweku Ananse to sing. Kweku stood motionless before the audience and as the crowd yelled for action he began perspiring copiously.

The truth was that Kweku had no voice and could not sing. At long last, he had been found out and he quickly contemplated seeking relief in flight. But before he could take flight the crowd surrounded him and prevented him from escaping.

Then the Monkey explained what Kweku had done to him. He made it known to the people that although it was he alone who sang the songs, Kweku collected all the money for himself and never gave him any remuneration for what he did. He did not even do enough to make him happy and comfortable.

Upon hearing these accusations against Kweku, the Chief ordered the money collected at that function to be seized from Kweku and given to the Monkey. They also branded Kweku a swindler who had cheated the Monkey out of his money. They took Kweku to his house and collected all the money he was supposed to have earned from his concerts and gave two-thirds of it to the Monkey and the remaining one-third was paid into the District Treasury as money for the State. Kweku was left in abject poverty and disgrace. From that time on, the friendship between the Monkey and Ananse withered away.

Ananse Stories Retold: Some Common Traditional Tales (Paperback)
Author: Luke Gyesi- Appiah
Illustrator: Vesta Wuddah- Marktey
Publisher: Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks

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