Study African Arts and Culture in Ghana

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Please note: this page will be continually updated with the latest information about the Ghana program, so check back often.

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Happy Ghana Independence Day! (March 6th) [1][2]

General information

This 9 credit summer study abroad program in Ghana, entitled "West African Music, Dance, Society, and Culture", comprises social science, humanities, and performing arts components, and is formally equivalent to three semester-long University of Alberta courses, available at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

  • West African Music Ensemble (Music 144/244, 544). A practicum developing basic skills required for performance and understanding of traditional Ghanaian music, song, and dance, including music of the Ga, Asanti, and other groups, but with a special focus upon Ewe music traditions of the Volta Region. Includes study on the University of Ghana campus, in a traditional Ewe village, and in various locations throughout Ghana. Note: if you require non-junior credit you can substitute 244 for 144.
  • Introduction to Ethnomusicology: The ethnomusicology of Ghanaian music and dance (Music 365, 565) Scholarly study of traditional and popular performance of Ghana, treating the form and meaning of traditional music and dance in cultural contexts, linking music and social identity, and reading Ghanaian culture, politics, history, and religion through music. The music, culture, society, and history of the Ewes will be included, so as to harmonize with the other two courses. The course culminates with the practical experience of doing ethnomusicology in Dagbamete.
  • West African culture, language, and society (Middle Eastern and African Studies 300, 500). This course comprises a multidisciplinary investigation of West African culture (possibly including study of literature, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, history, political science, religious studies, or other disciplines), plus a practical introduction to the Ewe language, in conversation and through its oral literary tradition.

These three courses continue in parallel throughout three program components, of roughly 10-12 days each: (1) classroom study at the University of Ghana's beautiful Legon campus, on the outskirts of Ghana's capital, Accra; (2) travel throughout Ghana, with attention to natural, historical and cultural landmarks, and varied opportunities to observe and study music and dance; (3) cultural immersion in a small Ewe village located in southeastern Ghana.

Music and dance performance is central, but no musical experience or talent is required to succeed (only a willingness to try!), and there are no prerequisites for any of the three courses. In 2007 and 2008, long-weekend field trips provided additional musical-cultural perspectives. In 2009 we rolled many of these trips into a single continuous week of travel. Field trips typically include visits to Cape Coast, Elmina, Kakum, Kumasi, Tamale, and Mole National Park where it is possible to view a wide assortment of wildlife. We undertake 2-3 day drumming and dancing workshops in many places we visit, such as Kokrobite, Kumasi, and Tamale, focussing on local musical culture (Ga, Asante, and Dagomba, respectively).

In our more sedentary moments, we'll be studying primarily on the beautiful Legon campus of the University of Ghana (Legon is a suburb of Accra, and a bit cooler too, where the rolling inland hills begin) and in the Volta-region village of Dagbamete, approximately two weeks in each location.

Here's a map on which you can find many of the places we'll visit: Legon, Accra, Kokrobite, Cape Coast, Kakum, Kumasi, Tamle (in the north). Kokrobite is around 80 kilos west of Accra. Elmina and Kakum are short drives from Cape Coast. In the Volta Region: Akatsi (a few kilos from our village, Dagbamete), and Ho, the capital of the Volta Region.

For a multimedia introduction to this program, please download this descriptive powerpoint presentation (along with this audio file)

To communicate with past or prospective participants, join our Facebook group

2010 program and application procedures...

Syllabi are not yet entirely fixed as yet. But please read the materials posted for 2009 below (the program will be very similar this year), and stay tuned, or email me if you need more info. The original application deadline, March 15, has been extended.

For applications, contact Caroline Lawson. Tel: 780 492 6215 Fax: 780 492 6213

We will not be able to run the program without a minimum of 10 students. So please don't book an airline ticket yet. But you may want to contact your travel clinic.


Anticipated program dates in Ghana are Friday July 2nd (arrive in Ghana Thursday July 1 or earlier) to Saturday August 7th, inclusive (depart Ghana August 8th or later). Tentative schedule:

  • Thursday, July 1: arrive in Accra
  • Friday, July 2: University of Ghana (Legon) campus orientation
  • Saturday, July 3: Accra tour
  • Sunday, July 4: fieldwork in church
  • Monday, July 5 - Thursday, July 8: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon)
  • Friday, July 9 - Sunday, July 11: 3 day Kokrobite musical beach adventure (30 km from Accra)
  • Monday, July 12 - Thursday, July 15: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon)
  • Friday, July 16 - Sunday, July 18: 3 days: Cape Coast, Elmina, and Kakum forest tour (historical and ecological)
  • Monday, July 19 - Tuesday, July 20: 2 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon)
  • Wednesday, July 21 - Wednesday, July 28: 8 day tour to Kumasi and Tamale
  • Thursday, July 29 - Saturday, August 7: 10 day Dagbamete village stay (cultural immersion, fieldwork, and intensive music/dance instruction)
  • Sunday August 8: depart

When you book your ticket, you are certainly encouraged to extend your stay beyond the end of the formal program; many students did so in 2009, while others wished they had! Or you may prefer to arrive in Ghana before the program starts, and do some traveling on your own then.

Undergraduate and graduate credit

Please note that the program is available for both undergraduate and graduate credit: Music 544 (West African Music Ensemble), Music 565 (Area Studies in Ethnomusicology), MEAS 500 (Topic in Middle Eastern and African Studies). The latter two courses emphasize advanced, critical reading, independent field research, and ethnomusicological analysis and writing. Students pursuing an MA in ethnomusicology could use these courses to develop a corpus of research and knowledge sufficient for the preparation of an MA thesis, or simply to develop a secondary area of ethnomusicological expertise.


Albertan students will each receive a $750 scholarship from the government of Alberta, up to 14 scholarships total. It is not yet clear whether scholarships are available for other students; you are encouraged to seek out sources of funding from your own institution, province, or state.


Non-University of Alberta students are responsible for ensuring that credit transfers to their home institution and program, and must enroll in University of Alberta open studies prior to enrollment in the program.


Approximate costs in 2010:

  • Tuition for Canadian students for the 3 courses : $1743.56 (more for International students) [paid in advance]
  • Program fee (includes Dagbamete room/board, Internet use on campus, airport pickup, certain workshops): $750 [paid in advance]
  • Housing on campus: approx $300 [paid in advance]
  • Food during campus portion of trip (July 1 - 20): approx. $200 [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Mandatory fieldtrips (transport, food, lodging): $300 [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Flight: around $2600 from Edmonton to Accra [paid individually]
  • Optional fieldtrips (two long-weekend excursions): $200 [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Optional spending money

Note: ATMs are plentiful in Ghana, so you need not bring a lot of cash to Ghana.

Past programs, testimonials....

Those considering attending in 2010 might like to examine the 2009 program material (below) and the detailed 2008 program, including course hours and schedule.

Our 2008 and 2009 groups carried out original field research in a Ghanaian village. Read the results of our study here: Music and change in Dagbamete

Here's a testimonial from a 2008 summer student enrolled in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Nursing.

Student blogs from 2009:




Browse photos from previous programs here:

Experiencing Ghana, summer 2007

Experiencing Ghana, summer 2008

Ghana program costs in 2008

2009 program and application procedures

2009 schedule

Following your arrival in Ghana by Thursday July 2, the 2009 program will commence on Friday July 3, lasting a total of 33 days until its conclusion on August 3 (departure August 4), including 3 days of orientation (July 3-5), 8 days of classroom lectures (July 6-9, July 13-16), 12 days of travel throughout Ghana (July 10-12, July 17-24), and 10 days' residence in a small Ewe-speaking Ghanaian village (Dagbamete), located in Ghana's Volta Region, for field study and musical/linguistic/cultural immersion (July 25-Aug 3). Unless you've made other arrangements, you'll be leaving Dagbamete on August 4th, and can catch a flight in the afternoon or evening on that day if you wish. It's also possible to arrange to stay in Dagbamete longer, or to spend time touring elsewhere in Ghana if you wish. But please do not plan to leave Ghana before August 4th.

The Ghana portion of the program will be shorter in 2009 than in 2008, but will provide the same number of credits. You are welcome to plan your trip as you like, arriving before the program begins, or remaining in Ghana afterward, in order to extend your stay. Because the Ghana portion is shorter, I will assign some readings for you to complete before your arrival in Ghana. Feel free to do these assignments at any time before the program commences.

Click here for 2009 schedule

Preparation for Ghana

Here are some guidelines and lists to help you prepare for travel.

Unless you're bringing a computer or e-reader, you should print out online reading assignments prior to departure.

2009 Program syllabi

Here are the syllabi for 2009.

Because the Ghana portion of the program is shorter than last year, you will be expected to complete a number of reading assignments prior to travel. Please take note of readings on the syllabi that you should complete before the program begins, namely:

You will prepare final papers after returning from Ghana - papers will be due at the end of August.

For now, please learn to locate all the countries of Africa and their capitals using this interactive map quiz for countries, and this one for capitals.

African Arts and Culture resources



  • Jean Rouch's classic "Les Maîtres Fous" about colonial Ghana (unfortunately only the first third available online...)


2009 Costs and scholarships

Ghana program costs in 2009

Scholarships are available!

Fifteen $1,000 scholarship awards are available to early applicants from Canada, with priority to UofA students. Ready to apply? Complete the application. (Note: the application says these grants are only for UofA students, but in fact you can obtain a scholarship even if you're not a UofA student. It's just that UofA students have priority.)

$2,250 scholarships are available for International students (including students from the USA).

Research in Ghana

Our summer program includes original field research in a Ghanaian village. Read the results of our study here: Musical Change in Dagbamete

Need more information?

Regarding application procedures please contact Caroline Lawson, Study Abroad Student Advisor, University of Alberta International, Education Abroad Program, 8920 HUB Mall, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2E1 Tel: 780 492 6215 Fax: 780 492 6213

You may also contact Professor Michael Frishkopf for further information about the program itself.

Sending this page's URL to someone else non-electronically (e.g. over the phone)? You can also use the following short form: