Study African Arts and Culture in Ghana

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The Ghana Program is ON for Summer 2013! Tentative dates: July 4 to August 11 2013. Please contact us immediately if you are interested and we'll put you on our lists!

Contacts: Xiao Zhang ((780) 492-1578) in Education Abroad for inquiries regarding study abroad, and Michael Frishkopf for program content.

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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. There are no prerequisites for these courses, or for the program as a whole.

The program aims to provide an international, life-transforming educational experience, grounded in study of music and dance (both traditional and popular), yet valuable to students enrolled in programs across arts, sciences, humanities, education, and social sciences. The Ghana program offers a grounded global perspective relevant to a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories; previous years' students came from a diversity of faculties, including Arts/Social Sciences, Science, Education, Business, Nursing, and Pharmacy. Thus studies of music and dance in Ghana are not intended as merely ends in themselves, but rather offer performative and participatory strategies for intercultural understanding, complemented by study of politics, history, religion, linguistics, literature, drama, economy, women's studies, and development--in the classroom, on the road, and in the field.

Formally the program includes three courses, of 3 credits each:

  • 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, economics, 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 (Dagbamete) located in southeastern Ghana, with opportunities for fieldwork and intensive study of music, dance, and language.

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. Starting in 2009 we rolled several 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

Application procedures


Please note: you must arrive on July 5 or before, and you must not leave until August 12 at the earliest. Extensions outside these dates are fine, and in fact encouraged; many students find post-program travel especially rewarding, as they know the lay of the land and how to traverse it, and have made good friends who become suitable travel companions besides. If you're interested in specific kinds of travel or study in West Africa please let us know and we can help you make suitable arrangements. Typically it's also possible to make stop-overs in Europe or elsewhere, often at no extra cost.

July 4 - arrive in Ghana (you must be in Accra by July 4; you may wish to arrive earlier and travel or study on your own before the program begins)
July 5 - program begins with campus orientation
July 6 - Accra tour
July 7 - morning church and fieldwork; possible outing to Ashaiman in afternoon
July 8-11 - week 1 (4 days) of classes at UG
July 12-14 - long weekend at Kokrobite
July 15-18 - week 2 (4 days) of classes at UG
July 19-21 - long weekend at Cape Coast
July 22-23- two days of UG classes (perhaps culminating in a party if resources allow...)
July 24-July 31 - Ghana tour (Kumasi, Tamale, Mole): Wed to Wed, by bus
Aug 1 - Aug 11 Dagbamete immersion: Thurs to Sun, following week to Saturday
Aug 11: program ends Sunday Aug 11 (you must not depart Ghana before this date; you may however opt to stay longer, and travel in Ghana or beyond)

Projected costs

Basic costs:

  • University of Alberta tuition (9 credits, 3 courses): $1,894.87 CAD (for Canadian citizens or permanent residents; inquire for other statuses)
  • Instructional support fee (covers all room and board during village stay, plus all field trip travel and workshops/performances, plus University of Ghana affiliation fee covering campus services such as internet and library): $800.00 CAD
  • Room at University of Ghana and hotels during field trips (village stay is covered by your instructional support fee; see above): Approx. $415.00 CAD
  • Board throughout, except during village stay (where food is covered by your instructional support fee): Approx. $442.00 CAD (note: it's certainly possible to economize here)
  • Education Abroad Application Fee: $250.00 CAD
  • Program Total: Approx. $3,801.87 CAD not including airfare (for Canadian citizens or permanent residents; inquire for other statuses)


  • Students are responsible for additional costs, including visa fees, vaccinations, medications (malaria medication is essential), medical insurance, books (most readings are electronic), supplies, gifts, entertainment and other incidental expenses.
  • Airfare is considerably cheaper if you can arrange to fly out of a major hub (e.g. Toronto, NYC). You may also wish to economize by combining this trip with travel elsewhere, via stopovers in Europe, Cairo, etc., before or after the program.
  • An additional $500 CAD in spending money is recommended.

Student support: scholarships and loans

  • Campus Alberta Grant for International Learning. Alberta Advanced Education and Technology is providing a limited number of $750 grants to eligible students to support their participation in approved University of Alberta Study Abroad Programs. West African Music, Dance, Society, and Culture has been awarded such grants for up to 14 students. To qualify students must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have been registered full-time for at least two semesters at any eligible Alberta post-secondary institution, AND be residents of Alberta (a resident of Alberta is a student who is born in Alberta OR who has graduated from a high school in Alberta OR who has lived in Alberta for 12 consecutive months without being a student e.g. working). Applications must be made before April 1st, at which time any remaining funds will be released to other programs.
  • UofA International Education Abroad Group Program Scholarship. $750 per student, for non-Alberta residents studying full-time at the University of Alberta. Applications must be made before April 1st, at which time any remaining funds will be released to other programs.
  • Loans. Students may also qualify for student loans.

Travel and Health

  • Students are responsible for their own travel arrangements to Ghana.
  • Vaccinations and a Visa are required for travel to Ghana.

Application process

You need to meet with a study abroad advisor by March 2 to complete the Summer Abroad Application. Contact Xiao Zhang, (780) 492-1578.
NB as of March 2nd: This deadline has been extended, contact Xiao to meet asap. The application deadline is March 19.

For more info...

Have questions? Please read over materials for 2010 below, as 2012's will closely resemble them. Still have questions? Please contact Xiao Zhang (780) 492-1578 in Education Abroad for inquiries regarding study abroad, and Michael Frishkopf for inquiries regarding program content, or visit Education Abroad.

Past programs, testimonials....

Those considering attending in 2012 might like to examine programs for previous years, below.

2008-2010 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 Summer 2009:




...and Summer 2010:







Browse photos from previous programs here:

Experiencing Ghana, summer 2007

Experiencing Ghana, summer 2008

2010 program and application procedures...

The 2010 programs runs July 1 to August 8.

The original application deadline, March 15, has been extended, as the program is currently underenrolled. If you plan to go, please contact Caroline Lawson immediately and no later than the week of April 12.

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


Anticipated program dates in Ghana are Friday July 2nd (you must arrive in Ghana by Thursday July 1 or earlier) to Saturday August 7th, inclusive (you must not depart Ghana before August 8th). Our tentative schedule:

  • Thursday, July 1: arrival in Accra (unless you've elected to spend some time in Ghana before the program starts); move into International Student Hostel dorms at the University of Ghana, Legon
  • Friday, July 2: meet at University of Ghana Guest Center (11 am) for meeting and greeting, program overview, lunch, campus orientation and tour
  • Saturday, July 3: Accra tour
  • Sunday, July 4: fieldwork in church; lecture on benevolent (funeral) associations; fieldtrip to Ashaiaman to participate in a funeral association performance by Afife (ageshe/adzida music)
  • Monday, July 5 - Thursday, July 8: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon). Possible excursion Thursday afternoon.
  • Friday, July 9 - Sunday, July 11: 3 days - Buduburam refugee camp research, and Kokrobite musical beach adventure (30 km from Accra)
  • Monday, July 12 - Thursday, July 15: 4 days classes at University of Ghana (Legon). Possible excursion Thursday afternoon.
  • Friday, July 16 - Sunday, July 18: 3 days: Cape Coast, Elmina, and Kakum forest tour (historical and ecological), about a 2-3 hour drive from Legon. Fante and Congolese popular musics.
  • 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, including lectures and workshops in both locations. Optional excursion to Mole National Park (wildlife).
  • Thursday, July 29 - Saturday, August 7: 10 day Dagbamete village stay (cultural immersion, fieldwork, and intensive music/dance instruction), culminating with final performance and party on August 6
  • Saturday August 7: free day - wrap up your research, say your goodbyes...
  • Sunday August 8: depart Dagbamete for airport (transportation included) or further travel in Ghana

In sum, we'll stay in the University of Ghana hostel from the evening of July 1 to the morning of July 21, then travel around Ghana, and return for one more night at the hostel on July 28), before departing for Dagbamete the morning of the 29th. (During our Ghana travel you can leave your bags locked at the hostel for a small fee.)

Note that you must schedule your air travel so as to arrive in Accra by the evening of July 1, and must not leave Ghana before August 8. However 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! (it wasn't always possible to extend the ticket later, as summer is "high season"). Or you may prefer to arrive in Ghana before the program starts, in order to do some traveling on your own. In that case you'll still move into the dorms on July 1st, and meet us on campus on the morning of July 2. If you want to avail yourself of pre-paid transportation to and from the airport, you should arrive on the evening of July 1, and depart in the late afternoon on July 8. However transport to and from the airport is not difficult to arrange.


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

Unless you're bringing a laptop (a good idea if you can swing it) or e-reader (you can read pdf's on Kindle), you should print out online reading assignments prior to departure.


Note: the syllabi will be updated frequently until June 2010.

Ghana 2010 syllabi

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 (subject to change depending on enrollments):

  • Education Abroad application fee
  • Fees for visa
  • Cost of vaccines, medicines (anti-malarial is a must)
  • Books, supplies, clothing, equipment, etc.
  • Tuition for Canadian students for the 3 courses : $1743.56 (more for International students) [paid in advance]
  • Program fee (includes Dagbamete room/board and transportation, Internet use on campus, airport pickup, certain workshops): $750 [paid in advance]
  • Housing on campus (July 1 - 20): approx $300 [paid in advance]
  • Food during campus portion of trip (July 1 - 20): approx. $200 [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Ghana tour (transport, food, lodging, activities): approx. $250 [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Flight: around $2600 from Edmonton to Accra, significantly less from eastern Canada or US. Note that it may cost significantly less to purchase multiple roundtrip tickets with a stopover in Europe, but in this case you should leave a day or more between flights to ensure connections. [arranged and paid individually]
  • Long weekend fieldtrips (two excursions): about $100 each, or $200 total (most students won't want to miss these) [paid individually in Ghana]
  • Optional spending money for souvenirs, clothing, drums (a drum costs about $50, and can be brought home as an extra bag), excursions, gifts....


  • Room and board during fieldtrips is figured at $25/day. These are conservative figures. In Ghana, it is possible to procure a satisfying meal for under $2 and lodging will often be $5/night or even less. But in some situations (e.g. the wonderful restaurant at Kokrobite, where dinner will be about $12, or the Guest Center on campus, where a meal's about $5), costs will be higher.
  • ATMs are plentiful in Ghana's larger cities, and on the campus, so you need not bring a lot of cash. Please see advice on financial preparations.

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.

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).

African Arts and Culture resources

General info on Africa

Africa South of the Sahara (Stanford University)

Africa Union

Aluka (log in via your university library site; if it's not available request a subscription)

Africa Past and Present podcast

African Knowledge Project, including a set of journals

African Activist Archive Project

Africa Portal

African languages and oral literatures

General info on Ghana

Library of Congress country study

CIA World Factbook

US Dept of State



Ghana news and media

Ghana tourism

Ghana Independence Day [1][2]

New York Times travel section article about Ghana (August 9, 2009)

Ewe stories

The Ewe Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa, by A. B. Ellis.


African music on the Internet

African Music Database

Ghana Expo - includes music, TV, films, and more...

Ghana Music

My youtube playlist

Ntama: Journal of African Music and Popular Culture

Music in Ghana [3]

Music news in Ghana


Music videos


Wikipedia articles on Ghana, and West Africa (limited, but good for links)

Ghana web music

Ghana music videos


Music lyrics

National Geographic World Music Guide

Dagara xylophone music center outside Accra

Hiplife compilation (BBC review)

African hip hop

James Koetting Ghana Field Recording Collection at Brown University

African American studies

Martin Luther King

Booker T Washington

Marcus Garvey

Claudia Jones

John Henrik Clarke

Ida B Wells

Ella Baker

W E B DuBois

Frederick Douglass

Film: Africa, West Africa, Diaspora, and related

Overviews of three major documentary series by Basil Davidson, Ali Mazrui, and Henry Louis Gates

Nollywood Babylon, on the Nigerian film industry

Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire, containing many online films about the Gold Coast, e.g. Gold Coast Police Band's visit to London in 1947, [4][5][6]Prince of Wales in Gold Coast,[7][8]colonialism[9]

Listening to the Silence: African Cross Rhythms (featuring Ewe music, Prof. John Collins, and many other wonderful things)

Singing Fishermen of Ghana

The Drums of Dagbon

Dying in Africa: Perspectives on the End of Life in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and South Africa

Wrapped in Pride: The Story of Kente in America

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

The Call of Africa

Too Close to Heaven: The History of Gospel Music

Family Across the Sea

Gravel Springs Fife and Drum

Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison

Black Delta Religion

Joy Uspeakable (Pentecostals in Indiana)

The Land Where Blues Began

The Music District

Music Masters and Rhythm Kings

The Performed Word

Fannie Bell Chapman: Gospel Singer



Tufts Kiniwe trip to Ghana


Brown University, bibliography on Ghanaian music

Program 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.

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