Tuesday, April 23, 2024
PROFESSOR KWABENA NKETIA: REMEMBERING AN AFRICAN ICON

PROFESSOR KWABENA NKETIA: REMEMBERING AN AFRICAN ICON

– If there was an African Mozart, Beethoven, or Banch, his name was Nketia

By Kwasi Ampene

Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia (b. 22 June 1921–d. 13 March 2019) from Ghana was the preeminent scholar of African musics, whose field research in the 1940s in varied ways, formed the foundation of music scholarship in Africa and predated ethnomusicology as an academic discipline in the United States. A prolific writer, music educator, and composer, his publications on key topics in African musicology are pivotal to the transdisciplinary field of African studies. Born and raised in Asante Mampong, Nketia was tutored in two worlds of knowledge systems: his traditional musical environment generated and sustained a lifelong interest in indigenous systems, and his European-based formal education provided the space for scholarship at home and around the world.

At the Presbyterian Training College at Akropong-Akwapem, he was introduced to the elements of European music by Robert Danso and Ephraim Amu. The latter’s choral and instrumental music in the African idiom made a lasting impression on Nketia as he combined oral compositional conventions in traditional music with compositional models in European classical music in his own written compositions. From 1944 to 1949, Nketia studied modern linguistics in SOAS at the University of London. His mentor was John Firth, who spearheaded the famous London school of linguistics. He also enrolled at the Trinity College of Music and Birkbeck College to study Western music, English, and history.

From 1952 to 1979, Nketia held positions at the University of Ghana, including a research fellow in sociology, the founding director of the School of Performing Arts, and the first African director of the Institute of African Studies; and together with Mawere Opoku, he established the Ghana Dance Ensemble. This was a time that he embarked on extensive field research and documentation of music traditions all over Ghana. His students and the school provided creative outlets for his scholarly publications as he trained generations of Ghanaians. In 1958, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship enabled Nketia to study composition and musicology at Juilliard and Columbia with the likes of Henry Cowell, and he came out convinced that his compositions should reflect his African identity.

Further, he interacted with Curt Sachs, Melville Herskovits, Alan Merriam, and Mantle Hood, which placed Nketia at the center of intellectual debates in the formative years of ethnomusicology. From 1979 to 1983, Nketia was appointed to the faculty of the Institute of Ethnomusicology at UCLA; and from 1983 to 1991, to the Mellon Chair at the University of Pittsburgh, where he trained generations of Americans and Africans. Nketia returned to Ghana and founded the International Center for African Music and Dance (1992–2010) and also served as the first chancellor of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology (2006–2016). Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia died in Accra and was honored with a state burial on 4 May 2019 by the Government of Ghana.

IMAGE: (R) Professor Kwabena Nketia. (L) M.anifest, celebrated Ghanaian music-maker, who took after his maternal grandfather, Professor Nketia.  

#AfricanPerspectives #AfricanPhilosophies #Africa #Africans #Diaspora #Culture #Traditions #Yoruba #Yorubaland #AfricanAmerican #Parables #Folktales #Wisesayings #Ogunde #Quotes #Quotations #Nigeria NigeriaUniversities #America #USA #Canada #UnitedKingdom #Europe #Asia MiddleEast #Australia #Ukraine #HarvardUniversity #Fagunwa #UniversityofOxford #MassachusettsInstituteofTechnology #StanfordUniversity #SunnyAde #PrincetonUniversity #UniversityofCaliforniaBerkeley #CornellUniversity #EbenezerObey #UniversityofToronto #UniversityofWashingtonSeattle #ColumbiaUniversity #UniversityofCambridge #Odunjo #CaliforniaInstituteofTechnology #JohnsHopkinsUniversity #YaleUniversity #DukeUniversity #UniversityCollegeLondon #ImperialCollegeLondon #Soyinka #UniversityofPennsylvania #UniversityofCaliforniaLosAngeles #UniversityofCaliforniaSanFrancisco #UniversityofIfe #UniversityofMichigan #UniversityofCaliforniaSanDiego #UniversityofChicago #Tsinghua University #NorthwesternUniversity #NationalUniversityofSingapore #UniversityoofArizona #ArizonaStateUniversity #NorthArizonaUniversity #GrandCanyonUniversity #BobbyBenson #PimaCommunityCollege #PhoenixCommunityCollege GlobalWarming #Youths #Democracy #Nketia #M.anifest

REMINISCENCES

Leave a Reply

You May Have Missed