Ghana 2009 syllabi

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Academic leader

Professor Michael Frishkopf,
Tel. in Ghana TBA; (780) 492-0670, 435-4834, 707-4785 (pre-trip until May 31; by email thereafter)
University of Ghana Guest Centre, July 2 - July 17
Office hours TBA.

Ghana Coordinator

Prof. Nathan Bampo (Institute for African Studies)

Course schedules

Note: We'll stay at the University of Ghana, Legon campus, July 3-16, with a fieldtrip July 6-9. We'll then embark on a Ghana study tour July 17-24, and conclude with village field school July 25-Aug 3, with a farewell dinner and performance Aug 3. You should arrive by July 2 (or July 3 at the latest) and leave not prior to August 4.

West African Music Ensemble (Music 144/544)

July 6 - 16: University of Ghana's Legon campus. Meets at the drum station under the trees, behind the Department of Music. Instructors: Johnson Kemeh, Aaron Sukura.

July 25 - Aug 3: Dagbamete. Study continues at the village field site. Instructor: Prof. Kwasi Dunyo.

Final performances: Aug 3 (Dagbamete).

Introduction to Ethnomusicology: The ethnomusicology of Ghanaian music and dance (Music 365/565)

July 6-16, University of Ghana's Legon campus, in the Computer LAB (School of Performing Arts)

Lectures from:

  • Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Introduction to Music of Ghana
  • Prof. John Collins: Popular Music and Ghanaian history
  • Prof. Simeon David Asiama: Akan music (hunters' music, funeral music)
  • Prof. Nissio Fiagbedzi: Ewe music and aesthetics
  • Prof. Willie Anku: African rhythm

July 25-Aug 3 (Dagbamete village): Prof. Michael Frishkopf: fieldwork component; Prof. Kwasi Dunyo: Ewe musical performance.

West African culture, language, and society (Middle Eastern and African Studies 300/500)

July 6-16, University of Ghana's Legon campus, in the Computer LAB (School of Performing Arts)

Lectures from:

  • Prof. Paul Agbedor (linguistics)
  • Prof. Robert Addo-Fenning (history)
  • Prof. Esi Sutherland-Addy (women's studies)
  • Prof. Akosua Perbi (history)
  • Prof. Mohammed Abdallah (drama)
  • Seth Ablosu (political science)
  • Prof. Kofi Anyidoho (literature)
  • Rev. Prof. Elorm Dovlo (religious studies)

July 25-Aug 3 (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, take notes, engage in discussion or play/sing/dance (as appropriate), as well as attend every mandatory activity, except in cases of dire 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 365/565 and MEAS 300/500. I realize time is limited, but you do not need to read every word of every article - rather your aim is to locate and absorb the main points of each.

Some of the required readings are marked with an asterisk (*). These are the readings for which you'll prepare a notecard reading review (see writing assignments below).


These short assignments are designed to encourage reflection, analytical thinking, and synthesis, drawing on both academic work and experience. Page lengths refer to 1.5 spaced pages, 12 pt font, 1 inch margins. You'll need 4x6 notecards for the reading reviews (see below).

Papers will be due August 25 to give you a chance to digest information after you return home. Notecards (lecture notes, reading reviews) are due by Monday evening following the week in which they're assigned. Fieldnotes will be graded towards the end of our stay in Dagbamete. Papers and the blog's URL can be submitted by email.

Standards for graduate students will be higher (in length, and in sophistication) than for undergraduates; please see me for clarification.

  • Reading review cards. For each required reading (article or book chapter) marked by an asterisk (*) 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. Again, prepare reviews only for readings followed by an asterisk (*), below.
  • Ethnography of ritual performance. A description and analysis of the Dagbamete Apetorku shrine ritual (to take place Sunday July 26, and August 2).
  • Fieldnotes and blog. You will keep a daily journal in which you record your experiences in Ghana, particularly while traveling or living in the village (but also on 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. Interpret differences. 10-15 minutes daily is all that is required, though some of you will probably want to write more. Your notes can be supplemented with documented audio-visual recordings (photographs, sounds, video). When you return home (or from Ghana if possible) you'll create a multimedia blog, using these materials selectively. This journal will be handed in and then returned to you, therefore please do not write anything in this journal you do not want me to read! (You may therefore wish to keep a second private journal as well, which need not be handed in.)
  • Pan-Africanism and West African literature. You'll each read one West African novel (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 an essay about these works (reading review cards are not required), drawing on other material from MEAS 300/500 as needed to provide perspectives from perspectives of history, politics, linguistics, religious studies, oral tradition, and other fields. Interpret the writing of this novel using socio-cultural and historical perspectives.
  • Interpreting “music in Ghana” for North Americans. Using everything that you've learned in Music 365/565, Music 144/544, MEAS 300/500, and via other experiences traveling and living in Ghana, you'll write an essay explaining the diversity of music in Ghana (relating this diversity to both social and historical factors), for a North American audience. Discuss linkages--historical and present--between music in Ghana and music of West Africa, North and South America, Europe, and elsewhere.
  • Music and language. Using your knowledge of ethnomusicology, sociolinguistics, music, and language, augmented by your knowledge of other fields, you'll compare music and language as social systems -- and the related ways of studying them.
  • 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 as many interviews as possible, and hand in transcripts, summaries, and analyses. After returning home we'll add these materials to a website dedicated to the topic.

Detailed instructions and requirements for a number of these assignments are available here.


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. Ideally you should try to bring a recording device to class.
  • 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

Please learn to locate all the countries of Africa and their capitals using this interactive map quiz for countries, and this one for capitals. I'll also give you a study sheet in Ghana.


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 144/544: 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 365/565: Reading review cards for required Music 365 readings marked with an asterisk (15%); fieldnotes/blog (15%); oral history project (15%); ethnography of ritual performance (10%); music and language (15%); interpreting music in Ghana (15%); participation (15%)
  • MEAS 300/500: Reading review cards for required MEAS 300 readings marked with an asterisk (15%); fieldnotes/blog (15%); oral history project (15%); music and language (20%); Pan-Africanism and West African literature (15%); map quiz (5%); 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).


Many readings are available online. You can download/print minimal pages, or the whole thing, or bring an electronic device allowing you to read without printing.

Textbooks to order in advance


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


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

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

J. H. Kwabena. Nketia - The Music of Africa (Norton, 1974)


For the literature segment of the MEAS 300 you'll be selecting a few works of contemporary West African (preferably Ghanaian) literature (novel, poetry, drama, short story) to read, and to write about. Many of these are stocked at the University of Ghana bookstore at reasonable prices, so you can browse and make your selections there. If you'd like to purchase a work of African literature in advance, please feel free. One widely-acknowledged classic does not seem to be available in Ghana, and so you might like to order it before traveling. It is The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born, by Ayi Kwei Armah. This novel vividly portrays the Nkrumah period in Ghana's history.

Another recommended novel is Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade by Manu Herbstein, a sweeping historical epic that wonderfully ties together so many issues and themes in West African history and culture. It's on the long side, though, so you might want to begin reading it before departing for Ghana.

Click here for ordering information.

Textbook to download and print

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.

Readings, listed by course segment/professor

Note: the following list may be modified in the coming weeks depending on the lecturer schedule that materializes...stay tuned!

Music 144/544: Johnson Kemeh, Kwasi Dunyo

Here are last year's handouts from Johnson Kemeh, containing background on dance pieces, and song texts: 2007, 2008

For this course, reading chapters 1 & 2 from African Music, African Sensibility, by John Miller Chernoff, will be very helpful as well.

Music 365/565

The following readings are required, except as marked. Please complete each reading prior to the lecture by the professor under whose name it appears.

Before July 2, please read the following

Music in Africa. Read Overview by Gerhard Kubik (which will work well with the opening chapters of Shillington); skim the rest for whatever interests you.

West African Music, by Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje. Skim for gist, linking to your historical readings.

African Music, African Sensibility, by John Miller Chernoff (University Of Chicago Press, 1981). Chapters 1 & also 2, if you can. (I do recommend this book for purchase; it's a classic.)

The Problem of Meaning in African Music*, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Ethnomusicology, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Jan., 1962), pp. 1-7. Landmark article by the most important ethnomusicologist of or in Africa - and one of our teachers in Ghana.

Popular Music in Africa, by Angela Impey

Jazz feedback*, by Prof John Collins (fascinating connections between Africa and the New World; Prof. Collins will be one of our teachers in Ghana)

Other materials can be read in Ghana:

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 (review; you should have read this already)

Modern African Music (Euba)*

An interview with J.H. Kwabena Nketia

Professor John Collins

West African Highlife*

Jazz feedback*

The Ghanaian music industry

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

Professor Simeon David Asiama

Women's roles in the mourning rituals of the Akan of Ghana*

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

Professor Nissio Fiagbedzi

Ewe rural-urban interchange*

African Music, African Sensibility, by John Miller Chernoff (University Of Chicago Press, 1981). Chapter 2 (review - you should have already read this; if you haven't, read it!)

Professor William Anku

Circles and Time: A Theory of Structural Organization of Rhythm in African Music* (Prof. Anku will explain this material in class; you can use this reading to test your understanding of the lectures.)

Music in Africa. Read Structures, by Gerhard Kubik.

Principles of Rhythmic integration in African drumming (optional; a bit difficult - just understand what you can)

Aaron Sukura

Documenting spoken and sung texts of the Dagaaba*


Try to read these before the village portion of our trip, in the Volta Region.

The Human Geography of Eweland

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

Guardians of the Sacred Word: Ewe Poetry (Awoonor)*

MEAS 300/500

Note that in addition to the following readings, 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.

Before July 2, please do the following


Shillington, chapters 1,2,3,6,7,12,13,16.

Ghana country study: read to the end of chapter 1; skim chapter 2.

History of the Ewes, by Dr. Wisdom Agorde

The Pan African Ideal in Literature of the Black World (Anyidoho)


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.

Browse The souls of black folk, by W.E.B Dubois (optional). We will visit the Dubois Center in Accra. You don't have to read this long work, but simply try to develop an appreciation for the tremendous importance of his writings for modern pan-African history.


Also please learn to locate all the countries of Africa and their capitals using this interactive map quiz for countries, and this one for capitals. I will give you a map quiz at some point during the course, and you can study again in Ghana. But the online materials make studying easier -- dare I say fun?

Other materials can be read in Ghana:

Professor Paul Agbedor

Language and society*

Greetings among the Ewe*

Ethnologue report for Ghana and Language map of Ghana (browse)

You will compile or purchase Ewe and other phrase lists in Ghana.

Note: a portable recording device will be very useful in order to get the most out of language training sessions.

Prof Addo-Fenning

Ghana country study Chapter 1, sections 7.1 - 7.4 (review)

West Africa-related material in Shillington, chapters 20,21,23,24,25,26

Christian missions and nation building in Ghana (optional)

Prof Elom Dovlo

Return home movements in Ghana*

Seth Ablosu

Ghana country study Chapter 1, sections 7.5 - 7.7 (review)

Shillington, chapters 28-30

Dr Akosua Perbi

Shillington, chapters 12, 16 (review)

A History of Indigenous Slavery in Ghana*, by Prof. Akosua Perbi, Introduction and Chapter 1. (A wonderful book, available for purchase in Ghana.)

Professor Mohammed Abdallah

The Trial of Mallam Ilya and Other Plays: A collection of his plays, available at the University of Ghana bookstore. Read at least "The Trial of Mallam Ilya".

Professor Sutherland-Addy

Women writing Africa* (Introduction)

Professor Kofi Anyidoho

The back without which there is no front (Anyidoho)*

The Pan African Ideal in Literature of the Black World (Anyidoho) (review; you should already have read this pamphlet)

Guardians of the Sacred Word: Ewe Poetry (Awoonor)* (Read prose and get a feel for Ewe poetry in translation.)

Sundiata: An epic of old Mali (optional)