Preparing for the Ghana program

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Google resources

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.

And here's a Google Calendar schedule (to be revised periodically. You'll have to switch the date to July/August to see anything...)


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:

Lonely Planet West Africa Travel Guide

Rough Guide to West Africa

Ghana: the Bradt Travel Guide, the only guidebook dedicated to Ghana, though reviews vary, as you can see.

Course materials: resources to acquire in advance

Physical resources

To reduce cost and weight we'll rely as much as possible on freely-available digital documents (books, articles, films, music), as well as articles or books available in Ghana. A few items, however, need to be purchased and brought with you. 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 are required for all - purchase and bring them with you (but if you want to arrange with your colleagues to share, that's fine by me)



  • 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.
  • Kinka: Traditional songs from Avenorpedo. You can obtain a copy on the UofA campus from Mr Robert Kpogo at a meeting of the West African Music Ensemble in spring term. Or you can purchase from CDbaby. Be sure to read the extensive liner notes.
  • 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. Required for those taking the program at the graduate level (565, 544, 500), and optional (though recommended) for others:

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 West African literature in advance, please feel free. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 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 (b. 1939), one of Ghana's most illustrious contemporary writers.
  • Nigerian Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) sadly passed away this year. His brilliant novel Things Fall Apart (1958), dramatizing the clash of colonialism, Western culture, and tradition in an Igbo village, is the most widely-ready book in modern African literature.
  • 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. This book is perhaps outstanding less as literature than as historical fiction which links very nicely to our summer program.


The following books are recommended for all 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 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.

Digital resources


Many reading materials are stored on this password protected site. Specific readings to download are listed in the syllabi. 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. The International Programmes office on campus does have internet, however, and printing is nominally available, when working.

  • Required:
    • Ghana overview. Ghana: An Oxfam Country Profile, by Julie Naylor. A free download from Oxfam.
    • Ewe language text. Unfortunately our program is too short to enable thorough study of the Ewe language. But getting a "taste" of the language goes a long ways towards cultural understanding, and you'll have a chance to practice during our village stay. Please bring this one, recently revised: Basic Ewe for Foreign Students. Bring any kind of audio recorder to capture related audio in Ghana.
    • West African music notes. Please download liner notes associated with listening examples (see below)
    • Articles. There are also numerous required articles, available online, as detailed in the syllabi. I try to provide at least one or two readings for each lecture, performance, visit, or other experience. You should read the syllabi carefully, and download all of these required materials before departing for Ghana, printing as necessary.
  • Optional:
    • A general reference work on Ghana: Ghana: a country study (from the Library of Congress) in a single pdf file (minus one chapter) (also available in full, but piecemeal, on the Library of Congress site). Required: 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. I used this in the past, but though thorough it's dated (last revised 1994).
    • Optional: A second Ewe language textbook: Ewe basic course, with audio.


Most students have ipods or the equivalent, and bring them everywhere. Don't leave them at home! In Ghana they'll be really useful, not just for personal entertainment, but for study as well. Load audio tracks into your ipod and you'll be able to listen on the go... Don't forget to download liner notes. Smithsonian Folkways provides all liner notes on their site, free of charge. You can also find liner notes here.

Music audio

Note: if you are a UofA student you have free online access to these tracks via two University of Alberta Library's databases. If you are a student elsewhere you should have access through the UofA's Open Studies program, and you may also have access to these databases; check with your library.

  • Smithsonian Global Sound
  • Contemporary World Music

Smithsonian Folkways albums can also be purchased online via or (for less $) on Other albums can be purchased on or

Please listen to these albums and read the liner notes! Ethnomusicology is all about music embedded in social context, and the sound itself rarely provides that context. Good liner notes do.

Required albums are in bold. These links are also embedded in the syllabi pages, in connection with the related activity (lecture, tour, etc.) I'm putting them here for your convenience since you should listen or at least download prior to your departure.

Smithsonian Folkways tracks (available online)

Required listening/reading (audio & liner notes):


Contemporary World Music and other tracks (mostly available online)

Note that some of the links below may only function for those with University of Alberta library access (these links access the University of Alberta library database, Contemporary World Music). But using the publication information provided, you can locate these recordings online and purchase them, via iTunes,, and other music download sites.

Required listening/reading (audio & liner notes):


Speech audio

Please listen to this:

...and this, if you have time:

Language instruction audio

Ewe resources online (optional):

The following are optional resources for other Ghanaian languages, though we'll focus on Ewe language, not Akan or Ga.


Better to watch these before departure, though Internet is available in Ghana... you may know how to download YouTube videos... A number of videos are required in the syllabi

Electronic equipment

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 of recommended equipment. Note that technology changes rapidly, and there's lots of "blur" between domains - audio, video, still photography, phone, tablet computer, etc. - so it can be difficult to decide on what to bring. Obviously there's always a tradeoff between cost, weight, bulk, and capabilities.

  • 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 (still) 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 good video, that's useful too, especially if you don't bring a video camera - and increasingly it isn't necessary. Many cameras can also record audio, though quality is not high. 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. High-quality audio recorders by companies like Zoom are excellent, and some include video as well. See an out of date listing and follow up by researching the latest models at a local music store (e.g. Long and MacQuade ). See
  • Video camera. Optional. Some models can substitute for a still camera. Some record to flash memory. For our purposes, small is good. If video functions can be covered by the still camera or by a phone, fine. Again, some audio recorders also take video. See
  • Smart phone. Some phones might take care of your audio, video, and photography needs. If you plan to use it as a phone, though, be sure it's compatible with the Ghana phone network, with removable SIM card, and unlocked. You'll buy a SIM card in Ghana (they're nearly free) otherwise calling rates are prohibitive. (If it's expensive to unlock you might consider just buying a cheap phone in Ghana.)
  • USB flash memory reader. Inexpensive, and very useful, unless your laptop has a flash memory slot: you insert a flash memory card, and then the whole thing plugs into a computer. Helpful for copying or emailing multimedia (photos, audio, video) without having to tote the entire device along.
  • Text reader or tablet computer. Electronic text readers - Kindle, iPad, etc. 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. Most assignments can be submitted after our trip concludes. 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.
  • External hard drive. Huge ones (1 TB and up) are now very inexpensive. One drive can back up all your stuff. Again, take care with security and handling.
  • Supplies: batteries, tapes, 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 (and increasingly) you'll just 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.

Other preparations

Entry requirements: Visa, Yellow Fever certificate, Passport

You will need a passport, naturally, and most likely need a visa as well (citizens of certain countries may be exempt from the visa requirement, but don't count on it; better to have an official visa). Check with Ghana consulates and embassies in Canada (or in your country). Here is the visa application form for Canada. Note that proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for issuance of a visa, and may be checked upon entry as well (so bring that proof when you travel!). You'll also need a letter of invitation from the University of Ghana (to be supplied by EAP) and a copy of your travel itinerary, along with 4 passport photographs.

NB: The Canadian visa rates are going up as of May 1! See this schedule.

If you intend to go in and out of Ghana more than once during your stay (for instance, if you plan to visit neighboring countries before or after the program), be sure to purchase a multiple entry visa, worth its price in saving you border hassles. You need only a single entry visa for the program, however. The EAP office will provide everyone with an official letter of invitation, along with relevant local addresses to use when completing the visa form. In the past we could obtain visas in Edmonton, but now you will have to send your passport to Ottawa. Leave time for this, and be sure to use traceable Xpress post Canada Post mailers, one to send, and another (pre-addressed) for them to mail your passport back to you. You don't want your passport to go missing in the mail!

I strongly suggest photocopying all entry materials and bringing copies, as well as keeping scans online where you can retrieve them at any time. These scans should include your passport photo page, as well as the page containing the Ghana visa, your Yellow Fever certificate, and your plane ticket.


  • 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. Know the insurance conditions - for instance, you may need to phone for coverage approval prior to receiving health services in Ghana. (However basic services are extremely inexpensive.)
  • Make sure you have all recommended vaccinations. Check with your local travel clinic. Proof of yellow fever vaccine is required for entry. Up-to-date tetanus is very important. Hepatitis vaccines (e.g. twinrix) are certainly advisable, and may take some time since doses are given on a schedule.
  • In Edmonton, make an appointment with Capital Health travel clinic to obtain needed vaccinations, prescriptions, and other advice.
  • 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 mosquitoes as well; you might bring a box (with maximum fragrance). Reduce exposed skin especially at dusk. 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 quantities. Medications are generally available in Ghana, but possibly under different brand names, with different strengths, etc. and you might have to obtain a local prescription. So while it's fine to plan to acquire ordinary over-the-counter meds (for colds, etc.) in Ghana, do consider taking anything essential, and especially prescription meds.


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 now very hard to cash - see below) and cash (American dollars are best), perhaps just the latter. 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.


  • Bring some essential cash, but plan to withdraw more using bank cards (debit cards). Some may not work in all ATMs (those with chips can be more problematic than those without). Check with your bank.
  • As you would elsewhere, bank ATMs are preferable to non-bank ATMs (and probably less expensive too). The big banks on the University of Ghana campus (with branches throughout the country) are Standard Chartered and Barclays.
  • Keep a list of card numbers and bank telephone numbers, just in case they're lost or stolen.
  • Inform your bank that you'll be traveling; otherwise they may block your cards on the assumption that they've been stolen, and you'll have to phone to unblock them (needless to say this can be difficult from abroad.)
  • 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 involved.
  • 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.
  • Moneygram. A relatively newer service, roughly equivalent too, and sometimes more economical than, Western Union, available throughout the world.
  • Lockable bag, so cash and cards need not be left out in the open.
  • The International Programme Office on the University of Ghana campus 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, and this may cost as much as buying a new phone in Ghana.) 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 ( and ideally bring a microphone/headset.

Note that a smartphone may also be handy for fieldwork purposes (see above) - inferior to dedicated equipment, but far superior to none.


  • 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. An official student ID will give you discounts here and there. The official International Student ID is best.


I suggest you make and bring copies of your important documents and a copy of your plane ticket. Copies help you replace these items if they’re lost. Scan these documents and keep them online where you can download them at any time if necessary. 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). These locks aren't secure, but may deter or slow any potential thief. You can use the International Programme Office safe on the Legon campus for valuables, though we've never had problems with thefts from rooms on campus or in Dagbamete. Hotel security (while traveling) varies; sometimes it's better to take things with you, other time better to leave things behind. Do not carry valuables around with you, particularly at night. Never walk at night in deserted areas, including on the UofG Legon campus! Always take taxies! Leave large sums of cash and passport behind when you go out.

Clothing etc

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.


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.

  • General
    • 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
    • condoms
    • 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)
    • Antihistaimines
    • 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
    • Thermometer

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!