Preparing for the Ghana program
- 1 Map
- 2 Guidebooks
- 3 Course materials
- 4 Other preparations
- 5 Education program's What to Bring list
Here's a map on which you can find Accra, Cape Coast, Kumasi, and Keta (not far from our village, Dagbamete); Ho is the capital of the Volta Region. Kokrobite is around 80 kilos west of Accra. Elmina and Kakum are short drives from Cape Coast.
We'll be studying primarily in Legon (a suburb of Accra, where the University of Ghana is located) and Dagbamete, and will visit other places on optional fieldtrips.
I strongly suggest that you purchase a travelers' guide book for Ghana or West Africa. Besides background on the region (history, culture, sites), such books contain excellent practical advice regarding food and lodging, as well as what to pack, so I further suggest that you review the latter sections prior to packing. Do get one that's up to date.
Here are a few possibilities:
Ghana: the Bradt Travel Guide, the only guidebook dedicated to Ghana, though reviews vary, as you can see.
To reduce cost and weight we'll rely as much as possible on electronic documents, and articles or books available in Ghana. For your convenience and reference I'm providing links to Amazon, but do comparison shop and pick them up elsewhere; the important thing is that you purchase the right edition, so that syllabus page numbers are correct.
The following books are required for all (but if you want to arrange with your colleagues to share, fine by me)
History. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) A general history of Africa, highly recommended. The big picture.
Music. David Locke - Drum Gahu: An Introduction to African Rhythm (White Cliffs Media, 1998). A terrific introduction--both hands-on and theoretical--to the structure of African music, by means of an Ewe music style called Gahu.
The following is required for those taking the courses at the graduate level (565, 544, 500), and optional for others:
Ethnomusicology. Steven M. Friedson - Remains of Ritual: Northern Gods in a Southern Land. Grad students will read this book about the Brekete religion of the Ewe people, and write a book report about it, summarizing and critiquing its logic, with reference to your own fieldwork in the Ewe area. For undergraduates, this is an extra-credit assignment.
The following books are recommended as supplemental reading; you will be glad you added them to your library:
History. John Parker and Richard Rathbone - African History: A Very Short Introduction. From the well-known Oxford "very short introduction" series....worthwhile. And short.
Music. John Collins - West African Pop Roots (Temple University Press, 1992). Professor Collins will be one of our instructors this summer; he's a wonderful resource and this is a wonderful book about popular music of West Africa. Other works by Professor Collins are available online.
Music. John Chernoff - African Music, African Sensibility (University Of Chicago Press, 1981) Focus on traditional music of Ghana. One of the best books ever written in ethnomusicology, period. Two chapters are assigned in any case.
Music. J. H. Kwabena Nketia - The Music of Africa (Norton, 1974). Prof. Nketia is the foremost living ethnomusicologist of African music, as well as one of the most important ethnomusicologists in the history of the field, and one of Ghana's foremost composers. And he is one of our teachers at Legon. Other materials are available online, but this is his primary general work on African music.
West African Literature selection:
Literature. 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.
Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, by Manu Herbstein, is a sweeping historical epic that wonderfully links so many issues and themes in West African history and culture. It's on the long side (but very easy to read), so you might want to begin reading it before departing for Ghana.
Many reading materials are available from this password protected site. You may want to print portions of these articles and books and bring the printouts, unless you're planning to bring a text reader or laptop on which you can read them (in which case the electronic versions will suffice). You might be able to download these items in Ghana, but you'd have to find an internet cafe first, downloading might be slow, and printing would be difficult.
There are two downloadable textbooks:
- Ghana: a country study in a single pdf file (minus one chapter) (also available in full, but piecemeal, on the Library of Congress site). Please bring at least Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 with you to Ghana. You may also browse and print other sections of interest; Chapter 4 contains a detailed summary of contemporary politics.
- Basic Ewe for Foreign Students
Many other readings are associated with specific lectures and travel are detailed in the syllabi, with download links. You should download all of these materials before departing for Ghana, and print if necessary.
For required audio (a subset of the below) see the syllabi. The following is a broader list of relevant materials.
Note: if you are a UofA student you should have free online access to these tracks via two University of Alberta Library's databases:
- Smithsonian Global Sound
- Contemporary World Music
I want you to become familiar with the following styles through one album each (and be sure to read liner notes):
- Ghanaian highlife
- Ghanaian palmwine guitar
- Ewe traditional music
- Ga traditional music
- Asante traditional music
- Dagomba traditional music
- Religious music of Islam and Christianity
Required listening/reading (liner notes):
- Ewe music of Ghana
- Music of the Ashanti of Ghana
- Music of the Dagomba from Ghana
- Music of the Ga people of Ghana
- Black music of two worlds (John Storm Roberts collection)
- Traditional Drumming and Dances of Ghana
- Folk music of Ghana (Ewe)
- Songs of War and Death from the Slave Coast: Songs of War
- Songs of War and Death from the Slave Coast: Songs of Death
- Traditional women's music from Ghana: Ewe, Fanti, Ashanti, and Dagomba
- Ghana: Children at Play: Children's Songs and Games
- Rhythms of Life, Songs of Wisdom: Akan Music from Ghana
Note that the links below may only function for those with University of Alberta library access. But using the titles, you can locate these recordings online and purchase them.
- Master Drummers of Dagbon, Volume 2: Drumming From Northern Ghana performed by Abdulai, Alhaji Ibrahim (Rounder Records, CD-5046)
- Seprewa Kasa performed by Korankye, Osei; Kyerematen, Baffour & Banaman, Alfred Kari (Riverboat, 330051)
- Mustapha Tettey Addy: Master Drummer from Ghana performed by Addy, Mustapha Tettey (Lyrichord, LYRCD 7250)
- Kwabenah Nyama: Ghana - Musique de Vin de Palme, Sunday Monday (Kwabenah Nyama: Ghana: palm wine music, Sunday Monday) performed by Nyama, Samuel Kwabena; Poku, Kofi; Duah, Agyemang; Seni, Addas & Annor, Kofi (Buda Musique, 1979352, 2000)
- Asante Kete Drumming: Music of Ghana performed by Nketia, Isaac; Martey, Gabriel Ololai; Damso, Yaw & Dwoomoh, Richard (Lyrichord, LYRCD 7454, 2007)
- Ghana: Music of the Northern Tribes (Lyrichord, LYRCD 7321, 1976) (listen to the gyil)
- Muzina performed by Rochereau, Tabu Ley (Singer/Songwriter) (Rounder Records, 5059) (Congolese popular music, soukous)
- Immortal Franco (Congolese popular music, soukous)
- Giving Voice to Hope: Music of Liberian Refugees. We'll visit the Buduburam camp where this music was produced. Please order the album and support these refugee musicians.
- W.E.B. DuBois: A Recorded Autobiography, Interview with Moses Asch (available on Smithsonian Folkways)
- Socialism and the American Negro (W.E.B. DuBois) (available on Smithsonian Folkways)
- Prof. Cornel West album
Language instruction audio
Better to watch these before departure, though Internet is available in Ghana, and you may know how to download YouTube videos...
For ethnomusicology, fieldwork is central, perhaps essential, maybe even definitional. High technology allows you to preserve bits of the fieldwork experience verbatim. Though ethnomusicologists sometimes regret that they're overloaded with equipment when they just want to dance or mingle, not bringing it entails other regrets later on...
So: Fieldwork equipment is optional, but will enrich your experience. (The only mandatory item is the digital camera - probably most of you have one already.) Take care, though, because these items can be expensive: lock them, and protect against damage from dropping, moisture, etc.
A complete fieldwork kit for ethnomusicology includes some kind of audio, video, and still image recorder, perhaps rolled into fewer than 3 devices (or, for those who are really serious, more than 3). The newer digital cameras can do all three, if not perfectly then at least acceptably.
If you have a portable audio recorder, please bring it, as it will be very useful for music study. Even a simple cassette recorder can be perfectly adequate, or you may have a minidisc recorder, or a memory stick or hard-drive MP3 recorder (many ipods can be turned into recorders with the purchase of a suitable microphone).
If you have a portable video camera, consider bringing that too. Don’t forget media (cassettes, memory) and batteries. These are probably available in Ghana—but the quality may not be the same as what you can bring from here. Pack these items carefully (ideally in a carry-on). I don’t recommend bringing extremely valuable equipment, but you be the judge.
Here then is your list:
- USB flash memory. Generally useful for moving information to and from computers, especially when you're working in internet cafes and can't save to disk. Consider this essential, if you intend to use any computer, even at an Internet cafe.
- Digital camera. I don't suppose anyone will want to leave home without one, and I don't recommend it. In fact you'll need a camera to do your fieldwork assignments. If your camera can take short bursts of video, that's useful too, especially if you don't bring a video camera. Many cameras can also record audio. Don't forget accessories: batteries, charger, extra flash memory (you'll almost certainly take more pictures than you now imagine), USB cable. SLR cameras are great for anyone really serious about photography, but point-and-shoot will do (and it's sometimes nice not to have to fuss with settings).
- Audio player/recorder, with earphones and mic. Very useful, not only for music, but for studying language as well. An mp3 player is nearly essential. Many iPods will record audio with an inexpensive mic attachment. High fidelity is not required. If your MP3 player can't record, you might want to bring another recording device, which might be your camera, or a minidisc recorder perhaps.
- Video camera. Optional. Some models can substitute for a still camera. Some record to flash memory. For our purposes, small is good.
- USB flash memory reader. Inexpensive, and very useful: you insert a flash memory card, and then the whole thing plugs into a computer. Useful for copying or emailing multimedia (photos, audio, video) without having to tote the entire device along.
- Text reader. Electronic text readers may save you from having to print out e-documents (see below). Not essential.
- Laptop. Optional. You don't need a computer, as useful as it may be to have one. I'll accept (neatly) handwritten assignments, and there are internet cafes all over. But some people like to have their laptop, especially if to transfer your digital recordings (photos, audio, video). Be careful to backup data. The computer's not nearly so valuable as the data. Take care to lock it down, and don't drop.
- Supplies: batteries, tapes, minidiscs, etc. Don't plan to buy these in Ghana; too much is counterfeit. Take note of exactly what your equipment requires.
- Electrical converters. The world is a patchwork of electrical standards. If you bring rechargeable fieldwork equipment, or even a hair drier, you'll need converters. Minimally you'll need plug adaptors. These simply convert the electrical plug; they don't change the voltage or AC frequency. These days most devices use an AC/DC adaptor which can accept current from 120-240 volts, and 50-60 cps. Be sure to check that your devices will accept 230 volts; otherwise you'll need a voltage converter.
These suggestions from my fieldwork class may be useful too.
You can buy notebooks, paper and pens in Ghana, but if you have preferences bring what you like. You'll need at least three regular-sized, lined, spiral-bound blank notebooks (around 100 pages) or notebook sections, and several pocket-sized ones.
- The ethnomusicology of Ghanaian music and dance (Music 365): one notebook
- West African culture, language, and society: one notebook.
- A small notebook for the performance course (Music 144); you might make this one a music (staff) notebook (if you read/write music)
- A notebook for your Dagbamete field project
- A notebook for fieldnotes (to be handed in)
- Pocket-sized notebooks to carry around with you in your pocket.
- A pack of 4"x6" notecards (for annotating readings and lectures)
- Optional: A journal (private)
You'll be handing in some of the assignments while we're in Ghana, and although I'll appreciate computer-prepared printed papers (and this is possible on campus), I'll gladly accept neatly handwritten ones. In this case plan to bring some extra lined paper.
You’ll need some cash for food (on the UofG campus), for food and lodging and certain workshops (on the Ghana tour), for optional fieldtrips, and for water (in Dagbamete - everything else is covered there). You may also want some cash for miscellaneous expenses (souvenirs, etc.) and optional excursions, beyond what the program itself requires. Last year nearly everyone bought a drum (about USD 60) and local clothing.
You should bring a combination of traveler’s checks (safer, but hard to cash - see below) and cash (American dollars are best). There are several banks on the UofG campus, and teller machines are available in larger cities. Check your bank to be sure you’re on the network. Note that there’s typically a charge of up to $5 per transaction; therefore, you may want to raise your daily limit from the usual $300 in order to minimize your total number of transactions (i.e. so you can withdraw $700 at a time instead of $300); you’ll have to do this at your bank branch before you leave. Bring a couple of credit cards for emergencies; while you won't use them much in Ghana (usually they're not accepted), they're vital during air travel, and can be used at large stores or hotels. Do not change all your money upon arrival in Ghana - it's nearly impossible to change it back to dollars at the end at a reasonable rate. Change only a little at a time, as you need it.
- Bank cards (debit cards). Some may not work (evidently those with chips). Check with your bank.
- Cash. American dollars are best. Be sure bills are new and crisp, or you will have trouble exchanging them. You can open a bank account on campus for safekeeping, though this is probably not worthwhile for small amounts (under $1000) due to time and trouble.
- Travelers' cheques. Travelers cheques can be cashed with difficulty, and large denominations are a problem. Last year there was no place to cash travelers cheques on campus, and students were forced to make trips into Accra to cash their cheques. Be sure to bring the original receipts or banks may refuse to cash them at all.
- Western Union. You may want to arrange for family or friends to wire you money upon request; it's easy to pick up Western Union wires all across Ghana. But you'll also pay a hefty surcharge for this privilege. Recommended only for cash emergencies. http://Westernunion.com
- Moneygram. A relatively newer service, may be more economical than Western Union, available throughout the world. http://Moneygram.com.
- Lockable bag, so cash and cards need not be left out in the open.
- The International Programme Office also offers students use of their safe (but be sure to note when they're open so you can retrieve your things when you need them)
If your phone works internationally you can buy a SIM card in Ghana to make calls there. (Note that your phone may need to be "unlocked" before it can be used with another company's SIM card.) Otherwise you can buy a phone there, for about USD $40 in 2008. I wouldn’t advise using your existing mobile phone plan there, even if your phone will work you'll wind up paying $5/minute or more. Also, look into long distance service from abroad (many companies offer cards allowing you to dial from anywhere). You can also call using Ghanaian facilities, and the price using a Ghanaian SIM card is reasonable. Internet is available from the University of Ghana campus. Skypeout accounts are useful, though quality isn’t always great. You should set one up before you leave (www.skype.com) and bring a microphone/headset.
- Small gifts for future Ghanaian friends
- School supplies for Dagbamete (the village where we'll stay); we'll make a collective donation. More on this later...
- your passport with a valid Ghanaian visa.
- a Yellow Fever certificate (required to enter the country).
- other forms of picture ID, including a student ID.
I suggest you bring copies of your important documents and a copy of your plane ticket. Copies help you replace these items if they’re lost. Bring locks for at least one bag so you can lock things in your room (though if you want to lock bags in-flight they must be approved or the airlines may cut them off). You can use the International Programme Office safe on the Legon campus, though we've never had problems with thefts from rooms on campus or in Dagbamete. Hotel security (while traveling) varies. Do not carry valuables around with you, particularly at night. Leave large sums of cash and passport behind when you go out.
The weather will be somewhat hot (probably averaging high 20s to low 30s), very humid (100%, often), and sometimes rainy as well. (An umbrella or raincoat is essential.) Cotton clothes help. Take footgear comfortable for walking. Don’t forget hat, sunglasses, and swimsuit/towel. Formal clothes are not required, but don't plan to wear shorts all the time - sometimes it's not appropriate. We'll all purchase some local cloths for special occasions, and you can buy lots of other clothes locally too. Bringing extra changes of underwear helps reduce laundry, but don't overdo it when packing clothes. Bring a sheet (you might sew it into a sleeping sack) and perhaps a small pillow to shield against iffy mattresses.
- Be sure you are covered by health insurance, on a student policy, on your parents’ policy, or on some other policy. To be extra safe, the policy should include emergency evacuation insurance.
- Make sure you have all recommended vaccinations (check with a travel clinic). Proof of yellow fever vaccine is required for entry.
- Malaria prevention. You must take anti-malarial medication. Usually you start before travel, and continue after returning. This is very important! Even more important is to reduce the number of bites. Bring a mosquito net and insect repellent. The fragrance used in Bounce (the sheets you put in the drier) is effective in repelling mosquitos as well; you might bring a box (with maximum fragrance). Long pants help.
- Many travel centers will provide a precautionary prescription for a general antibiotic; fill it and take it with you.
- Be sure to bring your own medications in sufficient supplies.
Bring things you absolutely must have. The major food groups are certainly all available in Ghana, and increasingly many fast foods are available too, but specific items might not be. Pizza is there, but granola bars might be harder to find. Some students brought chocolate. You could also consider food as gifts, e.g. candy for children.
Lonely Planet pack lists
The Lonely Planet guide to West Africa recommends the following checklist; some of these items may be more suitable for longer backpacking tours than for campus study, and not everything is appropriate for everyone, but I’m copying it in full for you anyway.
- Sealable plastic bags – protect belongings from moisture and dust
- vaccinations and proof of yellow fever vaccination
- travel insurance
- waterproof jacket for rains
- one smart set of clothes for special occasions
- mosquito net and repellent
- light sleeping bag or sheet (for less-than-clean hotels)
- sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen
- flashlight and spare batteries (headlamps are really useful)
- sturdy water bottle, water purifier and filter
- universal washbasin plug and length of cord for drying clothes
- sanitary towels or tampons
- an emergency stash of toilet paper
- photocopies of your important documents (also leave a copy somewhere safe back home)
- English-language books
- a small soccer ball – great way to meet local kids and their families
- contact lens cleaning and soaking solution and a pair of prescription glasses as a back-up
- Medical kit
- Acetaminophen (paracetamol) or aspirin
- Acetazolamide (Diamox) for altitude sickness (prescription only)
- Adhesive or paper tape
- Antibacterial ointment for cuts and abrasions (eg Bactroban)
- Antibiotics (prescription) eg. ciprofloxacin or norfloxacin
- Antidiarrhoeal drugs (eg loperamide)
- Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg Ibuprofen)
- Antimalaria pills
- Bandages, gauze, gauze rolls
- DEET-containing inset repellent for skin (at least 25% DEET)
- Iodine tables (water purification)
- Oral rehydration salts
- Permethrin-containing insect spray for clothing, tents, bed nets
- Pocket knife
- Scissors, safety pins, tweezers
- Sterile needles, syringes and fluids if traveling to remote areas
- Steroid cream or hydrocortisone cream (for allergice rashes)
- Sun block
If you’re not travelling on your own (pre- or post-program), don’t worry if you can’t bring or even obtain all of these items; we’re not straying far off the beaten track. Medical facilities are also available in Ghana, where they have much better knowledge of local diseases than here. Do increase the number of checks on your checklist if you plan on traveling on your own, farther from the beaten track.
Note: Both the UofG campus and the village of Dagbamete provide running water, clean bottled water, food, and beds. You will not have to purify your own water in these places, but you should avoid drinking tap water if possible.
Education program's What to Bring list
While there are a few significant academic differences between the Faculty of Education program and the Music program, you will nevertheless find Education's What To Bring list to be extremely helpful. We're going to the same place, after all!