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Prof. Kwabena Nketia passes away

Ghanaian ethnomusicologist and writer, Emeritus Professor Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia has died.

The 97-year-old was reported to have died at the Legon Hospital in Accra yesterday morning after a short illness.

Born on June 22, 1921 at Mampong Asante, the respected composer and writer is known for some of his popular choral works which include Adanse Kronkron, Morbid Asem, Monna N’Ase and Monkafo No.

Other vocal works with piano accompaniment include Yaanom Montie, Onipa Dasani Nni Aye, Onipa Beyee Bi, Yiadom Heneba, Mekae Na Woantie, Maforo Pata Hunu, Obarima Nifahene and Asuo Meresen.

He has also written extensively for Western orchestral instruments, like the flute, violin, cello, percussion and piano.

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, he went to the University of London to study for a certificate of phonetics at the School of Oriental and African Studies through a Ghanaian government scholarship.

In 1949, Professor Nketia went to Birkeck College, University of London, and Trinity College of Music, London, to obtain his Bachelor of Arts degree.

He continued his education in the United States of America in 1958 attending Columbia University, Juliard School of Music, and North Western University to do courses in musicology and composition.

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.

Among his many achievements include 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 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) and Member of the International Jury for the Proclamation by UNESCO of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

His numerous awards include 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) and ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his book on the Music of Africa.

Others included the 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.

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.

By Times Reporter

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