I have studied royal court music and read about it in books, but I have never experienced the real deal in person.

After driving around and greeting Nana Rokoto’s 103-year old father, the king of Nana Ama’s region, and many other folks, we headed to the heart of Nana Rokoto’s kingdom: his palace. They were waiting for him at the gate and as soon as we stepped out of the Toyota Camry, Nana was surrounded by his people and ushered into his royal courtyard.

Nana (which means chief or king) has dedicated himself to this region, starting up a secondary school, health clinic, and improving infrastructure of electricity, roads, and cell phone reception. Back in NYC, Nana is a yellow cab driver, but he gets many calls a day from his people back here, and is preparing for retirement. He’s starting a foundation to make even bigger improvements in these villages.

In the courtyard, the linguists, or royal spokesmen, led Nana Rokoto and Nana Ama with long staffs past a group of drummers and on to his throne. I’m not sure I can do the scene justice with words, so let me go straight to photos — first some of the people we met, then the royal court (will post better captions later…)

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