Ghana 2008 syllabi

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Academic leader

Professor Michael Frishkopf,
Tel. in Ghana TBA; (780) 492-0670, 435-4834, 707-4785 (pre-trip)
University of Ghana Guest Centre, June 12-July 12
Office hours TBA.

Coordinators at the University of Ghana

  • Prof. Nathan Bampo (Institute for African Studies): MEAS 300
  • Prof. Zabana Kongo (Department of Music): Music 144 and Music 365

Course schedules

Note: We study at the University of Ghana, Legon campus, from June 16 to July 10. There is a final performance and dinner on July 10. On July 12 we move to the village, to continue study in an immersive village environment from July 12 to 27. Our final performance takes place there on July 26.

West African Music Ensemble (Music 144)

June 16 to July 9, University of Ghana's Legon campus: Meets Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 to 5:30, at the drum station under the trees, behind the Department of Music. Instructor: Johnson Kemeh.

July 12 to 27, Dagbamete: study continues at the village field site. Instructor: Prof. Kwasi Dunyo.

Final performances: July 10 (Legon), July 26 (Dagbamete).

Introduction to Ethnomusicology: The ethnomusicology of Ghanaian music and dance (Music 365)

June 16 to July 10, University of Ghana's Legon campus: Meets 9:30 to 11:00, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, in the Computer LAB (School of Performing Arts)

  • June 16: Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Introduction to Music of Ghana
  • June 17,18,19: Prof. John Collins: Popular Music and Ghanaian history
  • June 23, 24, 25, 26: Prof. Zabana Kongo: African art music; music analysis; music composition, popular music of Central Africa
  • June 30, July 1: Prof. Simeon David Asiama: Akan music (hunters' music, funeral music)
  • July 2, 3: Prof. Nissio Fiagbedzi: Ewe music and aesthetics
  • July 7, 8, 9, 10: Prof. Willie Anku: African rhythm

July 12-27 (Dagbamete village): Prof. Michael Frishkopf: fieldwork component; Prof. Kwasi Dunyo: Ewe musical performance.

West African culture, language, and society (Middle Eastern and African Studies 300)

June 16 to July 10, University of Ghana's Legon campus: Meets 11:30 to 1:00, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, place to be announced.

  • June 16 Mon-Ewe Language Class-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • June 17 Tue-Sociolinguistics-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • June 18 Wed-History of Ghana-Prof. Addo Fenning
  • June 19 Thur-Women in Oral Literature in Ghana-Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy

  • June 23 Mon-Ewe Language Class-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • June 24 Tue-Sociolinguistics-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • June 25 Wed-Slave Trade in Ghana.-Dr Akosua Perbi
  • June 26 Thurs-Theater Arts in Ghana-Dr Mohammed Abdallah

  • June 30 Mon-Ewe language Class-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • July 1 Tue-Sociolinguistics-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • July 2 Wed-Political Dev. in Ghana-Seth Ablosu
  • July 3 Thur-Theater Arts in Ghana-Dr. Mohammed Abdallah

  • July 7 Mon Ewe Language Class-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • July 8 Tue-Sociolinguistics-Prof. Alex Dzameshie
  • July 9 Wed-Africa Literature-Prof. Kofi Anyidoho
  • July 10 Thur-Traditional/Contemporary Religion in Ghana-Rev.Prof. Elorm Dovlo

July 12-27 (Dagbamete village): Prof. Frishkopf: fieldwork and oral history supervision; Prof. Kwasi Dunyo: Ewe culture.

Assignments and grading



In order to learn, it is essential to participate fully in the program. Beyond completing reading and writing assignments, you must attend every class and every mandatory activity (some of the fieldtrips are optional, but attendance is strongly encouraged), except in cases of illness. It is equally important to make every effort to engage yourself with life in Ghana beyond the classroom.


Readings include (1) articles, (2) book chapters, (3) literature

Readings will be assigned from the reading list below, and in Ghana. Some readings are optional, while others are required. I will try to assign at least one reading for every class in Music 365 and MEAS 300.


These short assignments are designed to encourage reflection, analytical thinking, and synthesis, drawing on both academic work and experience. Page lengths refer to handwritten, single-spaced pages (please write neatly!). Bring a composition book allowing you to tear pages out along perforations, or looseleaf. Also you'll need 4x6 notecards for the reading reviews (see below).

  • Reading review cards. For each required reading (article or book chapter) you will prepare one 4x6 notecard with your name and the title of the reading on the top line (name at the left, title to the right). Below, you will provide a succinct summary and critique of the reading. In your summary, indicate coverage and main points; in your critique, indicate limitations, authorial biases and implicit assumptions. These are very short writing assignments. I will return cards to you for use in other assignments. Reading cards are due by Friday in the week assigned. Don't forget to bring notecards with you!
  • Pan-Africanism and West African literature. You'll each read one novel by a West African author (your choice--there are plenty to choose from in the campus bookstore), as well as Kofi Anyidoho's essay The Pan African Ideal in Literatures of the Black World (to be distributed), and prepare a 4 page essay about these works (reading review cards are not required), drawing on other material from MEAS 300 as needed. Due: June 30.
  • Interpreting “music in Ghana” for North Americans. Using everything that you've learned in Music 365, Music 144, and other experiences in Ghana, you'll write a 4 page essay explaining the diversity of music in Ghana (relating this diversity to social and historical factors) for a North American audience. Due: July 28.
  • Ethnography of ritual performance. A 2 page description of any ritual you attend while in Ghana (we'll all attend the Dagbamete Apetorku shrine ritual on July 13, and there will also be opportunities to attend other ritual performances such weddings, or church services on campus). Due: July 14.
  • Music and language (4 pages). Using your knowledge of ethnomusicology and sociolinguistics, you'll compare music and language as social systems -- and the related ways of studying them. Due: July 12.
  • Fieldnotes. You will keep a daily journal in which you record your experiences in Ghana, both on and off campus, reflecting on the relations between music, culture, society, and history. Write about music, people you see, hear, or meet, conversations, sights and sounds and smells, behaviors, food, dress, language, TV programs. 10-15 minutes daily is all that is required, though some of you will probably want to write more. Please keep personal journal entries in a different notebook, because you will hand in your fieldnotes journal (journals will be returned to you). Due: July 28.
  • Oral history project: Musical change in Dagbamete. During our two week stay in Dagbamete I will be lecturing about ethnomusicological fieldwork, and we'll conduct a collaborative oral history about socio-musical change in Dagbamete and the surrounding region, and the factors underlying such change. Everyone will conduct interviews, and hand in transcripts, summaries, and analyses. Due: July 28.
  • Instructor assignments. We'll have a wide variety of lecturers for both Music 365 and MEAS 300. Some of these instructors may ask you to prepare short written assignments, throughout the courses. Due: as assigned.


These assignments are not handed in, and thus are not graded. But that doesn't mean they aren't important! Remember: "practice makes perfect!". You learn both music and language in similar ways: by doing.

  • Ewe language. You must practice your Ewe, by listening and repeating phrases. Audio recordings are essential for learning any modern language, but especially for a tonal language such as Ewe.
  • Music 144. You must practice music presented in Music 144 (by Johnson Kemeh on the UofG campus, and by Kwasi Dunyo and his assistants in Dagbamete), by reviewing drumming patterns, performing with your colleagues, and listening (if possible try to record your lessons). I suggest you purchase a drum; everyone will purchase drum sticks.

Evaluated performance

  • Ewe language quiz: July 7
  • Final music and dance performances on July 10 (Legon) and July 27 (Dagbamete).


All coursework will be graded on a scale from 1-4 points. These grades will be combined (according to the percentage weights given below), then rounded to the nearest value in the following table, in order to arrive at a final grade for each course. Unexcused late assignments will be downgraded one quarter point per day.


  • A: 4.0
  • A-: 3.7
  • B+: 3.3
  • B: 3.0
  • B-: 2.7
  • C+: 2.3
  • C: 2.0
  • C-: 1.7
  • D+: 1.3
  • D: 1.0
  • F: 0.0


  • Music 144: Participation (70%); music and language (15%); interpreting music in Ghana (15%). Your final grade will depend primarily on active participation, not on proficiency in music and dance. However it is essential to practice and participate actively in all domains--singing, percussion, dancing--to the best of your ability.
  • Music 365: Reading review cards for Music 365 readings (15%); fieldnotes (15%); oral history project (15%); ethnography of ritual performance (10%); music and language (15%); interpreting music in Ghana (15%); instructor assignments, participation (15%)
  • MEAS 300: Reading review cards for MEAS 300 readings (15%); fieldnotes (15%); oral history project (15%); music and language (15%); Pan-Africanism and West African literature (15%); Ewe quiz (10%); instructor assignments, participation (15%)

Academic integrity

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University. (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

On plagiarism see also:

Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar.” (GFC 29 SEP 2003).


Textbooks to order in advance

John Collins - West African Pop Roots (Temple University Press, 1992).

John Chernoff - African Music, African Sensibility (University Of Chicago Press, 1981)

Kevin Shillington, History of Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

 Click here for ordering information.

Textbooks to download and print

Note: these are free, but long. You can download/print minimal pages, or the whole thing, or bring an electronic device allowing you to read without printing.

Ghana Country Study

Ghana country study Download and print at least the Introduction and Chapters 1 & 2. Also available piecemeal here. Courtesy of the US Library of Congress.

Ewe Basic Course

Text. A free textbook exists for the Ewe language: Warburton's Ewe Basic Course.

If you wish, you can download the complete Ewe Basic Course here.

We'll focus on the following sections, so if you'd rather not lug the entire text, or if it's hard to download such a big file all at once, please download and print each link in the Warburton directory: the Introduction; Units I, II, III, IV, V, VI, X, XI, XII, XIV, XVII, XVIII, XXI; and the Dictionary.

Audio. I have acquired MP3 audio files, linked to the text, and put them online for you. Please make every effort to download the audio files associated with the Introduction, and Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 21, and install them in your MP3 player. (For some reason the text is numbered using Roman numerals, while the audio files were numbered with Arabic numerals. They do correspond.) There is no listening lab at the UofG, so please take advantage of these files. You'll learn so much by listening, especially when you can take advantage of odd bits of time here and there.

Resources, by course segment/professor

Music 144: Johnson Kemeh


John Chernoff - African Music, African Sensibility (University Of Chicago Press, 1981) (chapters to be assigned).

Music 365

Professor J. H. Kwabena Nketia

The Problem of Meaning in African Music, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1962), pp. 1-7

Musicology and Linguistics: Integrating the Phraseology of Text and Tune in the Creative Process, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Black Music Research Journal, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 143-164

African Music and Western Praxis: A Review of Western Perspectives on African Musicology, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 20, No. 1 (1986), pp. 36-56

The Intensity Factor in African Music, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Journal of Folklore Research, Vol. 25, No. 1/2 (January 1988), pp. 53-86

The Study of African and Afro-American Music, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1973), pp. 7-15

Professor John Collins

John Collins - West African Pop Roots (Temple University Press, 1992) (chapters to be assigned).

West African Highlife

The Ghanaian music industry

The reasons for teaching African popular music studies at University

Many of Prof Collins' articles are available on his website.

Professor Zabana Kongo

Creative Ethnomusicology (Euba)

Modern African Music (Euba)

Form in African Music (Kongo)

The following articles may be provided in Ghana:

(a) Zabana KONGO and Jeffey Robinson, 2003: Improvisation, in, Musical Arts in Africa, Theory, Practice and Education. Edited by Henri Herbst, Meki Nzewi and Kofi Agawu. Pretoria, Unissa Press, p. 95-117

(b) KONGO, Zabana P.: Form in African Music. Paper Presented at the Center for Intercultural Music Conference, Cambridge, August 2001

(c) KONGO, Zabana P. African Drum Music: Adowa. Afram Publications, Accra, Ghana, 1997.

KONGO, Zabana P. African Drum Music: Agbekor. Afram Publications, Accra, Ghana, 1997 KONGO, Zabana P. African Drum Music: Kpanlogo. Afram Publications, Accra, Ghana, 1997

(d) Euba, Akin: Modern African Music. A Catalogue of Selected Archival Materials at Iwalewa?Haus, University of Bayreuth, Germany, 1993

(e) Euba, Akin: “Creative Ethnomusicology: a transformational zone between research and composition, An inaugural lecture”. Center for Intercultural Studies. Pittsburgh. 1999.

Professor Simeon David Asiama

My mother has a television, by Professor James Burns (on funerals)

Professor Nissio Fiagbedzi

John Chernoff - African Music, African Sensibility (University Of Chicago Press, 1981) (as assigned; focus on Ewe music)

Prof. Fiagbedzi's book on Ewe aesthetics will be available at the University of Ghana bookstore.

Professor William Anku

Circles and Time: A Theory of Structural Organization of Rhythm in African Music

Principles of Rhythmic integration in African drumming

MEAS 300

Background readings

Try to read these prior to the first week of class (on the plane, perhaps):

Shillington, chapters 1,2,3,6,7

History of the Ewes, by D.Phil Wisdom Agorde

Professor Alex Dzameshie

Ewe Basic Course. (see text and audio to download, above)

History of the Ewes, by D.Phil Wisdom Agorde

Papers on sociolinguistics (to be distributed in Ghana)

Other web resources:

Browse the Ethnologue's Languages of Ghana, and note the distribution of languages on a map.

Note the position of Ewe within the Niger-Congo family.

Prof Addo Fenning

Ghana: A Country Study, Introduction, and chapters 1 & 2

Seth Ablosu

Ghana: A Country Study, chapter 1 (review or complete)

West Africa-related material in Shillington, chapters 20,21,23-30.

Dr Akosua Perbi

Shillington, chapters 12, 16

Professor Mohammed Abdallah

A collection of his plays will be available at the University of Ghana bookstore.

Professor Kofi Anyidoho

History of the Ewes, by D.Phil Wisdom Agorde

The back without which there is no front (Anyidoho)