Ghana 2017 syllabi

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Music for Global Human Development in West Africa

short link:

For general program information see:

Academic leader: Professor Michael Frishkopf
Tel. in Ghana TBA; Skype: (617) 275-2589
Teaching partners: University for Development Studies and Youth Home Cultural Group (Tamale)


Ghana 2017: Music for Global Human Development, July 3 to August 11, 2017

The Department of Music and the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology are proud to offer Music for Global Human Development in West Africa, centered at the University for Development Studies in northern Ghana (the main campus is located in Tamale, capital of Ghana's Northern Region), preceded by a two days of initial orientation in Accra. The 9 credit (3 course) program will run from July 3 to Aug 11 2017, and offer credit for both the Certificate in International Learning and Certificate in Community Service Learning.

There are routes for both undergraduate and graduate study, and "Open Studies" students who are not enrolled in any university program. The program is available to anyone age 18 and up.

The 9 credit summer program comprises social science, humanities, and performing arts components and is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Music and dance performance is central, but no musical experience or talent is required to succeed. CSL credit will be provided, as we work in partnership with a local NGO, Youth Home Cultural Group.

The program centers on the role of music (and sound, and all related performance arts -- dance, poetry, drama -- as well as visual arts, costume, design) towards promoting human development, either directly (by carrying specific development messages designed to change attitudes and behaviors, or indirectly, by strengthening social cohesion by reinforcing civil society and strengthening cultural continuity - see the Music for Global Human Development (M4GHD) project and -- for an example -- Singing and Dancing for Health, a recent project in Northern Ghana.

The University of Development Studies covers the spectrum of academic disciplines, with a focus on development. The 9 credit program, which will include the University's new Development Action Through Expressive Media (DATEM), will again include three component courses: (1) African music and dance practice - Music x44; (2) African development (including some historical and cultural background to development issues today) with both classroom and field components; and (3) Music for Global Human Development, extending "music" to "expressive culture" and taking advantage of DATEM offerings, but focused on music and dance approaches primarily.

We will work with UDS faculty on full or half day sessions in order to learn about their research areas, and the ways they apply their research to practical development problems in Ghana's north - particularly in the domains of global health, education, nutrition and poverty alleviation, gender equality, peace and justice, and environment, with reference to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. We will volunteer with Youth Home Cultural Group to support their projects with children and youth in Tamale. Students will also work collaboratively on a music/global health project located in the village of Tolon - see Singing and Dancing for Health - designed to simultaneously address health and social issues. There may also be opportunities for medical students to substitute hospital-based training in Tamale for this segment.

During the course of this program we will spend time in urban and rural areas of Ghana's north, centered on the regional capital of Tamale, with an extended fieldwork stay in the village of Tolon, quite close to Tamale, where the Singing and Dancing for Health project is in progress, as well as a preliminary 2-day orientation period in Accra.

Excursions to sites of natural, historical and cultural interest, including the Mole wildlife preserve, the Larabanga Mosque, and other destinations in the vicinity of Tamale, Wa, or Navrongo are possible through optional weekend trips.

We will spend the first two days in in Accra, studying music, dance, and healing, and touring Accra, for a broader perspective on Ghana as a whole. We will then travel to Tamale, our base for the next five weeks, before spending the final week in a nearby village, Tolon. Weekends will provide opportunities for excursions around Ghana's north. Here is a map displaying these locations, as well as some of our potential travel destinations, with images.

The program comprises 3 courses (9 credits): two in music (Music 144/444/544 "West African Music Ensemble", and Music 365/565 "Topics/Area Studies in Ethnomusicology") and one in interdisciplinary studies (INT D 325 and INT D 530: Development). No prior musical training or ability is required. Airfares are highly dependent on point of origin.


  • $1,596.24 for 9 UofA credits (3 semester courses)- for Canadians and Canadian residents (more for non-Canadians). Note: non-UofA students register through Open Studies.
  • $800 mandatory fees (attached to Music 365 and 565) - these will be used to cover additional programming
  • $1400 room and board (or $30/day, about $900/month -but you can easily reduce your food costs depending on where you take your meals; room is under $14/day. Much less expensive than living in Canada!)
  • $500 extra funds (estimated & minimal) to cover incidentals, entry to tourist sites, gifts, etc.

Total: $4,296.24 (more for non-Canadians and Open Studies)


  • international ticket to Accra: cost can vary greatly; from Edmonton likely to range from $1700 to $2500 depending on timing and airline. Note that you may like to use the trip as an opportunity to explore other locations through stopovers (often free) in Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East. This is completely acceptable so long as you arrive in Accra by the start date, and don't depart before the final program day.
  • cost of visa/photos (Ghana requires a visa which you can obtain by mail from Toronto or Ottawa; be sure you have a passport not expiring imminently.
  • vaccines & insurance (if needed). Note: everyone requires a Yellow Fever vaccine - the vaccination card is required to obtain a visa and must be carried to Ghana for entry.


  • The first 15 UofA students to apply will receive $1750 each; non-UofA students will receive $500 each.


  • grad route:
    • Music 565 "Music for Global Human Development in West Africa"
    • Music 544 "West African Music Ensemble"
    • INT D 530 "West African Development"
  • undergrad route:
    • Music 365 "Music for Global Human Development in West Africa"
    • Music 144 or 444 "West African Music Ensemble"
    • INT D 325 "West African Development"

Course schedules

See program map for locations of places mentioned in the following table.

Arrival in Accra by July 2 - Departure from Accra from August 12.

July 3-9 July 10-16 July 17-23 July 24-30 July 31-Aug 6 Aug 7-11
Monday Accra visits; physical-social-spiritual power of music with Kofi Atenteben M4GHD & fieldwork M4GHD & fieldwork M4GHD & fieldwork M4GHD & fieldwork Tolon
Tuesday Accra visits; physical-social-spiritual power of music with Kofi Atenteben UDS: Mr. Salifu Jebuni The aesthetics of African Music/Dance with particular reference to the Dagbamba Visit to traditional drummers UDS: Dr. Abdulai Abubakari, Divination: An all-encompassing socio-cultural reality Visiting to a Diviner UDS: Dr. Felix Longi The History of Slavery in Northern Ghana; Visit to Sakpuli individual project work Tolon
Wednesday UDS: orientation; Tamale & campus tours, settle into Catholic Guest House UDS: Prof. Amin Alhassan Communications for Development - Visit to an NGO Visit development org & individual project work Visit development org & individual project work individual project work Tolon
Thursday UDS: Dr. Salifu Mahama Culture and ethnic groups of the North; Visiting a female Chief YHCG & CSL YHCG & CSL YHCG & CSL YHCG & CSL Tolon
Friday Youth Home Cultural Group (YHCG) intro performance/workshop & CSL initial visit (youth group) YHCG & CSL YHCG & CSL YHCG & CSL CSL performance; Tolon prep with YHCG Tolon
Saturday YHCG & CSL Mole/Larabanga/Daboya Navrongo/Paga/Gambaga with Dr. Vida Yakong; SWOPA Individual projects or Wa sites - optional trip Tolon Depart Tamale morning and Accra in evening
Sunday Fieldwork (church, mosque, wedding, funeral) Mole/Larabanga/Daboya Navrongo/Paga/Gambaga Individual projects or Wa sites - optional trip Tolon

West African Music Ensemble (Music 144/444/544)

This course focuses on several indigenous (not European, not mediated, not characteristically Christian or Muslim) styles of Ghanaian music, song, and dance, through listening, watching, and doing. You will learn to perform these styles, and meanwhile learn their context and significance, as a means of understanding local culture. We will work with trained instructors in Accra and Tamale; learning will be immersive to a greater extent in the village setting (Tolon).

July 3-4: Traditional music, song, and dance of Ghana, with Kofi Atenteben and friends (Accra)

July 7 - Aug 4: Traditional music, song, and dance of the Dagomba people, and the "dance drama" as a tool for development (Tamale, with Youth Home Cultural Group). Here you will be using what you learn from master drummers and dancers at Youth Home , as well as from professors affiliated with the West African Development course, to create your own dance drama to share with local urban youth in Tamale. You will also receive some basic lessons in relevant languages, appropriate for pronouncing song lyrics as well as basic greetings.

Aug 5 - 11: Traditional music, song, and dance of the Dagomba people, and the "dance drama" as a tool for development (in Tolon, a nearby village). You will learn through interactions with two local (community and school) groups. Here, other music-related research and performance activities will also be scheduled.

You will also be exposed to a range of other northern Ghanaian musical styles, as available through our weekend trips.

Music 365/565 "Music for Global Human Development in West Africa"

This course introduces you to the concept of "music for human development"; here "music" is interpreted broadly to include all related performance culture, especially dance, poetry, and drama.

Weekly theoretical overview lectures/discussions will take place on Mondays ( Prof. Michael Frishkopf), including an introduction to concepts, as well as to best practices for fieldwork.

Topical lectures, workshops, and field visits led by instructors involved in performing arts for development and wellbeing (see above schedule)

This course will include an overview/discussion session every Monday, followed by one or two full days per week comprising:

  • A required reading, assigned in advance
  • A related lecture/discussion
  • A field visit

We will also integrate activities with related NGOs, including Youth Home Cultural Group (YHCG), Farm Radio, Right to Play, and others. The course will include a CSL component, working through YHCG to interact with local youth through music, in order to develop dance dramas oriented towards development themes of local importance, and to develop friendships through musical exchange, as well as working with "music drama for development" groups in our village field site, Tolon, where other music-related research and performance activities will also be scheduled. There are thus two distinct CSL projects, one in Tamale and the other in Tolon, each centering on dance dramas.

INT D 325 or 530: "West African Development"

This course provides an introduction to development in northern Ghana, in theory and in practice, through case studies in a variety of fields, possibly including education, public health, agriculture, environmental science, and other areas. It includes an initial overview of northern Ghanaian society and culture in general, followed by topical lectures, workshops, and field visits led by instructors involved in development, 1-2 days per week.

Instructors are listed in the schedule above.

Each session will comprise:

  • A required reading, assigned in advance
  • A related lecture/discussion
  • A field visit

During our stay in Tolon you will have various development-related fieldwork projects to work on, including an interview-based assessment of people's work and how they feel about what they do, an interview-based study of musical change and its development implications, and an observational inquiry into local healing practices, and the role of expressive culture.

Community Service Learning

All three courses contribute towards your CSL experience, in collaboration with Youth Home Cultural Group (YHCG) and University for Development Studies (UDS). CSL activities will take place in two locations: (1) the city of Tamale, where we'll be working together with YHCG to develop--with local youth-- dance dramas to address development themes, to be determined - these sessions will take place in the afternoons, following training with YHCG and lunch; (2) the rural district of Tolon, where we'll be working with two performance groups that already use music and dance drama as a development tool (one based in a school deploys music/dance for public health; the other, in a community, for climate and ecosystem change adaptation and resilience ) to help them document their performances, assess their impact, and learn to teach it, thereby helping ensure sustainability of group and repertoire. You will write two short reports documenting each project, including reflections on the CSL experience. (See Assignments below.)

Weekend trips

The above three courses will be enhanced and extended through immersive learning in the course of weekend field trips. We will organize at least two excursions to various locations marked on the map (see above), including an overnight to Mole National Park (where you will enjoy seeing wildlife, including elephants, close at hand). Wherever possible we will bring a focus upon human development issues, and also try to learn as much as possible about local expressive culture, particularly music. Your fieldwork skills will be brought into play as you learn through participant observation and informal interviews, as well as audio-visual documentation and fieldnotes.

Preparation and Resources

See Preparing for the Ghana program.

On that page, required and optional course resources (books, articles, music, video, etc.) are listed here.

Assignments and Grading

The following assignments were set out on Monday July 10, 2017. They are due by August 31, 2017.

Lengths refer to 1.5 spaced, 1 inch margins (not including bibliography). Any citation/bibliographic style is fine - please just be consistent. Lengths are minima and also sufficient; you can write more but please don't go too far past the lengths listed.

1. Individual project paper. Begin with your proposal (which I'd asked you to submit early in the trip, but feel free to modify or expand it here), then add results and future directions (including the PAR project itself).

Cite references/sources throughout, including readings assigned for M4GHD, all components of UDS days (readings, lectures, and field notes for afternoon visits), as well as all other field notes, with attention to initial days in Accra, weekend trips (to Mole/Larabanga/Daboya and to Bolgatanga/Paga), NGO visits (or their websites, including organizations we visited together-- JayNii, Youth Home, Right to Play, Farm Radio, Shea Nut collective in Sagnarigu, Shekinah clinic -- or any other organization you visited on your own), and interviews, as well as secondary sources (books, book chapters, articles, reports) you may locate, always remaining critically aware of the continuum between reference (a sequence of statements interpreted as independent truths) and source (a sequence of statements interpreted as utterances of an author in a context).

NB: all of the above can be cited in the body of your paper (author date format is easiest), and listed in your bibliography. (To save lots of time and headache use a citation manager such as or Refworks or Endnote.) Generally you may cite descriptive field notes by date, with yourself as author, but list interviews and lectures by speaker as author.

As much as possible, strive to weave together all that you have learned - for instance, an NGO might provide a comparative example, or inspire some portion of your project, even if the specific topic (e.g. shea nuts) is irrelevant to your interests.

Length : at least 10 pages.

Structure as follows :

  • aim and significance
  • background (topic and scope), including sources treating Ghana, the north, Dagomba, Tamale, etc in general terms.
  • scope (specific area of action: who/what/when/where)
  • specific problems or questions to be addressed (including any theoretical framework)
  • methods used (including comparisons: urban/rural or Tamale/Tolon)
  • results and interpretations
  • future directions, including a proposed PAR project for subsequent implementation. Include project design as well as a means of assessing its impact. Consider: health, education, environment, tourism, cultural continuity, social cohesion. Remember to address participatory dimensions of PAR - who comprises the team?

NB: if you can frame your PAR project as M4GHD (including any performing arts), perhaps using the C4D paradigm, great (but this is not a requirement)

2. Group project paper (M4GHD CSL PAR): working with youth in Tamale and in Tolon). NB: though you carried out the project together, the papers are to be prepared individually.

Structure : as #1 above, but in this case you actually completed the PAR project, at least an initial iteration, and in two different locations, so the PAR component can be fully described. After providing aim/significance, background, problems, and methods, describe what happened in each location, compare locations, assess impact, and reflect on differences in process and outcome. What might a new PAR cycle bring? How did your project support the aims of CSL? (our local partner was Youth Home, a registered NGO).

Length : at least 10 pages.

3. Interviews. At least one interview for each of the following two types : a. work and life b. musical change

Decide how to combine paraphrase and transcript, and how to integrate them. You can also submit recordings if you made them. Add photos if possible and indicate whether you have permission to make this material public.

Length: at least 1-2 pages.

4. Sound walk, at least one. Describe location and time, before summarizing the walk itself, and conclude with some interpretation of what you heard. Include recordings if you made them.

Length: at least 1-2 pages.

5. Descriptive event ethnography. Select an event (we witnessed or participated in many - most including music of some sort), probably already described in your field notes. Now set about describing it more systematically. Begin by selecting and justifying the descriptive frame(s) used as a strategy for organizing your description (essentially, used to convert a multidimensional event to a linear stream of prose). Each frame corresponds to a particular dimension of performance: chronological (what happens when?), spatial (what happens where?), personal (who does what? perhaps following a person around...), musical/sonic (e.g. what is the progression of sound densities, tempos...?), or any other organizational strategy. Supplement with media or schematics (e.g. maps, diagrams, sketches), as you wish.

Length: at least 1-2 pages.

6. UDS sessions. One critical summary for each of the 7 UDS session (including any assigned reading, lecture, discussion, and field trip):

  • Prof Edward Mahama
  • Prof Salifu Jeboni
  • Prof Amin Al-Hassan
  • Prof Abdulai Abubakari
  • Prof Vida Yakong
  • Prof Felix Longi
  • Prof Romulus Ziem

Length: At least two paragraphs for each, the first descriptive, and the second critically evaluative).

7. Daily field notes (listed by date) as a text file, plus a link to your accompanying blog/website (more selective and media-rich, including photos, audio, video). (Note: I will not share the former with anyone, whereas the latter should be prepared for public access.)

Length: no minimum length but ordinarily I will expect to see an entry for every day, or nearly so...


  • Music x44: grades depend entirely on participation and contribution to rehearsals and performances.
  • Music 365/565: #2 (50%), plus the following five: #3b, #4, #5, #6 (Mahama, Jeboni, Ziem), #7 (10% each = 50% total)
  • INT D: 325/530: #1 (50%), plus the following five: #3a, #4, #5, #6 (Al-Hassan, Abubakari, Yakong, Longi), #7 (10% each = 50% total)

Assignments are due August 31.