University of California eulogises Ghana’s Kwabena Nketia

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The University of California has paid tribute to Kwabena Nketia.

USA | Ghana – The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has paid tribute to the late Ghanaian ethnomusicologist Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia.

The school refers to the late scholar as a “UCLA leader in African musical traditions”.

Before his death, Nketia was a much-revered musicologist, composer, academic and writer. He was the author of 42 compositions and as an academic, he taught at several tertiary institutions. These include the University of Ghana, Legon; the UCLA; Presbyterian Training College, Akropong and the University of Pittsburgh.

At UCLA, Nketia was a professor of music for more than a dozen years, spanning 1969 to 1983.

According to a statement from the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California, his lectures on ethnomusicology involved the deployment of several theories and methods. “His vast knowledge, and the great joy and passion he brought to the subject matter, provided encouragement to generations of students,” says the school.

A mentee of the departed scholar, Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, a  professor emerita of ethnomusicology at the university, commented on his life, saying, “Nketia was an inspiration to both musicians and others, not only for his brilliance and work ethic as a researcher and composer, but also his compassion and humility.”

Nketia turned 40 in 1961, the year he was made deputy director of the University of Ghana’s new Institute of African Studies. By 1964, he had become the director at the institute and spearheaded the creation of the school of performing arts at the university.

It was around this time that the Ghanaian scholar began working with Mantle Hood, professor of music and founder of the UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology. Their relationship made it possible to have Ghanaian musicians at the UCLA campus and with Nketia’s help, Hood made a documentary film in 1964 titled Atumpan: The Talking Drums of Ghana.

“His fruitful relationship with UCLA would continue to grow,” the university’s school of music writes in an in memoriam notice online. “At the urging of Hood and other faculty, [Nketia] became a full-time professor in 1969, and was instrumental in the development of the university’s African music performance program.”

Nketia passed on aged 97 and has been mourned by his home country since the announcement of his death on 13 March.

Read the full tribute here

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