Prof. Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia
Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Ph.D. writes:
J. H. Kwabena Nketia died earlier this week. For details, see the attached.
Wednesday 13 March 2019
Ghanaian ethnomusicologist and composer, Emeritus Professor Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia has died.
The renowned writer died at the Legon Hospital in Accra, Wednesday morning after short illness, asempanews.com can confirm. He was 97.
Kwabena Nketia was born (June 22, 1921) at Mampong, then a little town in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. He received his first musical education, and eventually trained as a teacher at the Presbyterian Training College, Akropong Akwapin – where he later taught and was appointed Acting Principal in 1952.
At 23, a very young age to go abroad in those days, Kwabena, through a Ghanaian government scholarship, went to the University of London to study for a certificate of phonetics at the School of Oriental and African studies.
He went on (1949) to Birkeck College, University of London, and Trinity College of Music, London, to obtain his Bachelor of Arts degree.
In 1958 he came to the United States, attending Columbia University, Julliard School of Music, and Northwestern University to do courses in musicology and composition. After a year in the United States, he returned to Ghana where he rapidly rose through the ranks at the University of Ghana, Legon – from Senior Research Fellow (1962), to Associate Professor, and finally a full professor in 1963. Two years later, he was appointed Director of the Institute of African Studies.
Prof. Nketia is world-renowned as musicologist and composer. He is to African Music what Bartok is to Western music. Of all the interpreters of African music and aesthetics, Nketia sets the pace.
His concept and interpretation of time and rhythmic patterns in Ghanaian and other African folk music were revolutionary, and became standard for researchers and scholars around the world.
For example, Nketia introduced the use of the easier-to-read 6/8 time signature in his compositions as an alternative to the use of duple (2/4) time with triplets used earlier by his mentor, Ephraim Amu. Although this practice undermined Amu’s theory of a constant basic rhythm (or pulse) in African music, and generated some debate, Nketia maintained that the constant use of triplets in a duple time signature was misleading.
Today, many scholars around the world have found Nketia’s theory very useful in transcribing African music. Prof. Nketia’s work to reconcile the melodic and rhythmic elements of folk music with contemporary music spurred a new kind of compositional technique for African musicians and academics, worldwide.