Emeritus Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia was born on June 22, 1921 at Mampong Asante. He was a composer, ethnomusicologist, and a writer. He had over 200 publications and more than 80 musical compositions to his credit.

He was Acting Principal, Presbyterian Training College, AkropongAkuapem, First African Director, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Professor of Music, University of Ghana, Professor of Music at UCLA, Horatio Appleton Lamb Visiting Professor at Harvard University, Visiting Cornell Professor at Swarthmore College, Distinguished Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Visiting Professor at the University of Brisbane in Australia, Visiting Professor at the China Conservatory of Music, Beijing, Andrew Mellon Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh, and Langston Hughes Professor at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

He was the Chancellor, Akrofi-Christallor Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture, Akropong-Akuapem, a Foundation Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts & Sciences, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain, and Ireland, Honorary Member of the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO), Honorary Fellow Of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Honorary Member of the Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA), Member of the International Jury for the Proclamation by UNESCO of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, and Board Member of the National Commission on Culture, Republic of Ghana.

His numerous Awards included Cowell Award of the African Music Society, Companion of the Order of Star of Ghana, Grand Medal of the Government of Ghana (Civil Division), Ghana Book Award, ECRAG Special Honour Award (1987), Ghana Gospel Music Special Award (2003), ACRAG Flagstar Award (1993), ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his book on the Music of Africa, IMC-UNESCO Music Prize for Distinguished Service to Music, Prince Claus 1997 Award for Distinguished Service to Culture & Development, the Year 2000 Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association of the USA for Life-long Devotion to African Studies, and DLitt(Honoris Causa) of the University of Ghana.

He passed away in 2019.

  • The Creative Potential of African Art Music in Ghana: A Personal Testimony (Companion Booklet to ICAMD CD Recordings)

    This booklet on the Creative Potential of African Music in Ghana: A Personal Testimony is dedicated to the memory of Professor Albert Mawere Opoku for his unique contribution to Dance Theatre in Ghana, his close collaboration with colleagues in artistic research projects, and his enthusiastic and encouraging interest in the creative work of artists in cognate fields. Nothing would have pleased him more than to be part of the launch of the four volumes of CD recordings of a selection of my musical works, for he was always making cassette dubbings of my music for his friends. I believe that this Companion Booklet will be of interest not only to his circle of friends but also to other music lovers, students and the general public.

    With this readership in mind, the scope of the booklet has been limited to a few personal observations. It does not tell the complete story of African Art Music in Ghana or Africa in general, something I hope our younger scholars will work on as scores and other sources of data become available. It is simply the story of an individual composer and his works, his reflections and comments on his experience as an African composer, which he presents in conjunction with the CD recordings of his works as testimonies of the creative potential of African art music. For a fuller and more objective account of my life and work, I would like to refer readers to Eric Akrofi: Sharing Knowledge and Experience: A Profile of J. H. Kwabena Nketia (Afram Publications 2003) and Akin Euba: Creative Musicology: A Study of J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Centre for Intercultural Studies, Berkeley.

  • African Pianism: Twelve Pedagogical Pieces

    “African Pianism refers to a style of piano music which derives its characteristic idiom from the procedures of African percussion music as exemplified in bell patterns, drumming, xylophone and mbira music. It may use simple or extended rhythmic motifs or the lyricism of traditional songs and even those of African popular music as the basis of its rhythmic phrases. It is open ended as far as the use of tonal materials is concerned except that it may draw on the modal and cadential characteristics of traditional music.

    “Its harmonic idiom may be tonal, atonal, consonant or dissonant in whole or in part, depending on the preferences of the composer, the mood or impressions he wishes to create or how he chooses to reinforce, heighten or soften the jaggedness of successive percussive attacks. In this respect the African composer does not have to tie himself down to any particular school of writing if his primary aim is to explore the potential of African rhythmic and tonal usages.”

    Although I have felt the need for this kind of material even in the 1950s, most of the Twelve Pedagogical Pieces in this volume were written when the school of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana was established in the 1960s in order to give the African piano student being nurtured on simplified and original versions of Western piano repertoire something with African rhythmic and tonal flavour that may enrich his experience, shapes his orientation, sense of timing and coordination of rhythmic and tonal events.

    As the titles of the pieces indicate, I have used a variety of traditional and popular sources as the basis of the compositions. Each source establishes a framework of rhythmic and tonal configuration from which a few idiomatic derivatives are made and used in the inner and outer structures of the piece in such a way as to create a perpetual feeling of propulsive motion. Each piece is sustained by a particular quality of motion created in this manner.

    As in traditional African practice each piece can be repeated once or twice except where a definite closure is indicated by a retard. The pianist can also select a number of them and play them as a suite. A few of them such as the Volta Fantasy and Meditation can stand on their own as concert pieces and have been presented in that manner by both African and Western pianist. It is my hope, there- fore, that some of the pedagogical pieces will be of general interest. – J. H. Kwabena Nketia

  • Proceedings of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (Volume XXXVI, 1997 – Land as a Resource for Development)

    Proceedings, 1997.


    Intellectual Agenda for Coping with Social Reality — J.H. Kwabena Nketia

    Security of Title to Land in Ghana — Enoch D. Kom

    Land Utilization for Development: Constraints and Suggested Solutions — B.J. da Rocha

    The Institutional Capacity for Land Utilization for Development: Constraints and Suggested Solutions — Seth Opuni Mensah

    Land Resource Management for Agricultural Development — Kasim Kasanga

    Land Resource Management for Human Settlement and Industrial Development — Paul W.K. Yankson

    Land as Capital — P.A. Koranchie and M. Owusu-Ansah

    Religion and National Identity: Assessing the Discussion from Cicero to Danquah — Kwame Bediako

    Efficient Utilization of the Vertic Soils of the Accra-Plains: Prospects, Constraints and Way Forward — Yaw Ahenkora

  • Proceedings of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences & The J.B. Danquah Memorial Lecture, Series 3 (Volume VIII, 1970)

    Proceedings, 1970. This issue contains the third series of the J.B. Danquah Memorial Lectures delivered by R.K.A. Gardiner in 1970.


    The Role of Educated Persons in Ghana Society – R.K.A. Gardiner (The J.B. Danquah Memorial Lecture, Series 3)

    Law Reform in Ghana in the 1970s – Justice N.A. Ollennu

    Africa and the European Economic Community – Professor J.C. de Graft-Johnson

    The Dilemma of the Scientist – Professor D.A. Bekoe

    The Intellectual and the Meeting of Disciplines – Dr. Letitia E. Obeng

    The Creative Arts and the Community – Professor J.H. Nketia

    Faith and Reason – Professor K.A. Dickson

    Some Concepts of Medical Education in Ghana – Professor C.O. Easmon

    Training and Employment of Technicians in Ghana – J.G. O’Barka Torto

    Technology and Culture – Professor K.E. de Graft-Johnson

    Some Aspects of Agricultural Research in Ghana – Professor Kankam Twum-Barima

    Social and Educational Factors Relevant to Agricultural Progress in Ghana – S. La-Anyare

    Clinical Research in the Ghana Medical School – Professor E.A. Badoe

    The State of Research in Applied Genetics in Ghana – Professor Ebenezer Laing

  • Proceedings of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (Volume II, 1964)

    Proceedings, 1964.


    The Techniques of African Oral Literature – Professor J. H. Nketia

    Some Reflections on the Programme of the Ghana National Institute of Health and Medical Research – Professor J. Gillman

    Ideology and Society – Professor W.E. Abraham

    Some Problems Concerning Science Education in Newly Emergent Countries – Professor R.W.H. Wright

    Physics in the Modern World – Professor Sir Nevill F. Mott

    The Nature of Higher Education – Dr. J.B. Danquah

    Report on a Visit to Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the U.S.S.R. – Professor E.A. Boateng

  • Gender: Evolving Roles and Perceptions (Proceedings, 2004)

    Proceedings, 2004.

    Papers included are as follows:

    Law as a Tool of Social Change – Nana Dr. S.K.B. Asante

    Gender: Changing Roles and Perceptions – Dr. Afua A.J. Hesse

    Gender: Evolving Roles and Perceptions – Professor George P. Hagan

    Gender: Economic and Political Power – Nana Oye Lithur

    The Changing Role of the Family in Contemporary Times – Dr. Eugenia Date-Bah

    Gender and Contemporary Challenges – Professor Takyiwaa Manuh

    Kwame Nkrumah and the Arts – Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia

  • Some Critical Development Issues Facing Ghana (Proceedings, 2001)

    Proceedings, 2001.

    Papers included are as follows:

    Ideology, Politics, Population and Development – Professor Fred T. Sai

    The Nature and Place of Ideology – Professor Kwasi Agyeman

    Political Power and Development – Professor Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

    Transforming Agriculture – Rev. Kwabena Darko

    Transforming Industry in Ghana – Mr. Kwame Pianim

    Social Transformation: Education, Culture and Human Development – Professor Miranda Greenstreet

    Ensuring a Humane Society – Justice Emile Francis Short

    Promoting Culture and Development in Contemporary Contexts – Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia

  • Ethnomusicology and African Music: Modes of inquiry and interpretation Vol 1

    The volume in hand deals with modes of inquiry and interpretation broadly organised into sections on theory, and historical and creative studies. The section on theoretical issues comprises papers on: the problem of meaning in African music; musicology and African music; the juncture of the social and the musical; integrating objectivity and experience in ethnomusicological studies; the aesthetic dimension in ethnomusicological studies; universal perspectives in ethnomusicology; and contextual strategies of inquiry and systematisation.

    The section on creative and historical topics covers the following: the history of music in African culture; history and the organization of music in West Africa; historical evidence in Ga religious music; processes of differentiation and interdependency in African music; African musical roots in the Americas; and developing contemporary idioms out of traditional music.

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