Many Africans who became aware of their own musical traditions in the colonial
period and in the post-independence period of the cultural awakening did not undertake serious systematic research. They chose to recollect what they
already knew (e.g., about compositional models of music) or used such African materials as they could find to illustrate some theoretical issues or procedures in the Western tradition that they believed to have universal validity. Others turned to the pedagogical approach, developing courses of study by relying on secondary sources rather than their own original research. Knowledge shared through these approaches may have helped to combat prejudices held against African arts by some of their own colleagues and the Western world. It may also have provided a dimension of the arts that could be missing from the work of the scholar who treats music, for example, as a social or cultural fact, or as an object of formal analysis, and not as an art. However, a better approach is one based on a creative vision, anchored in consciousness of identity, and engaged in systematic documentation, classification and critical evaluation of cultural heritage in a manner that facilitates easy access to the materials and their dissemination.
The chapter examines four twentieth-century Ghanaian neo-traditional music
music, neotraditional, in Ghana
, Akan, Dagomba, and Ewe
) that are rural/communal performance traditions but have integrated elements of urban popular music. As a result, they reflect and articulate both ethnic identity and socio-political
processes related to contemporary city life. It is thus inappropriate to apply to these neo-traditional genres older eurocentric
’ models that advocate just one form of developmental change: westernization
. Rather, the four music styles demonstrate ‘multiple modernities
’ that reflect the unique character of their particular ethnic communities; they emerged in the context of urban-rural feedback, in line with more recent developmental theories; and their performers are not passive recipients of change emanating from the ‘centre’, but ‘cultural brokers’ who actively select elements of commercial popular performance suitable for their communal music-making. These genres thus provide a test case for the newer ‘liberation’ and ‘glocalization
’ developmental theories that focus on how people on the ‘periphery’ adapt imported Western norms and technologies to their own indigenous folkways and national culture.
Five decades since Independence, the investigation and analysis of African identity is no longer the dominion of foreign educators. In consequence identity endures as a properly galvanizing focus for all humanities disciplines across the African continent. A comparison of Ghanaian and Nigerian seminal scholarly works reveals glaring discrepancies between the realities of African religious identity and images promulgated by British colonial
experts which are sustained to this day. African classicists and theologians are obliged to correct erroneous contrasts between ancient Greek doctrine, Christianity
, and traditional Akan beliefs about divinity and personhood. Likewise, in sociology and anthropology
the foreign gaze perpetuates misimpressions of African community. Wiredu concludes with a valuable digest of his seminal insights into the contrast between political
as normative agreement, and political
consensus as a collective decision to produce policy that embraces conflicting ideals. Thus he highlights important contrasts between indigenous African systems of democratic
governance, and modern pretensions of civic participation through multiparty electoral politics
In his essay, Kofi Awoonor examines what he terms the syndrome of a “massive inferiority complex
inferiority complex, cultural
” that the colonial system has unleashed upon Africans—a condition which is being reinforced through the colonial legacy of education. A corollary to this situation is that the encounter with the West has left Africans dispossessed and humiliated, their self-respect, confidence and identity all but eroded. For real decolonization to be achieved, Africans must restore their self-confidence and retain their identity as autonomous
agents. African humanities scholars can play a major role in this pursuit if their research addresses colonialism’s denigration of Africans and its distortion of their history and current reality. Their findings can then be made the knowledge foundation of a school education that can transform students into self-assured people ready to absorb the so-called global knowledge-system.
In this essay Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò examines a broad range of topics in the essays of the late Kofi Awoonor. He analyzes some of the recurrent themes in Awoonor’s critical essays, such as democracy in the aftermath of Africa’s honeymoon with socialism; global peace and justice; the scourge of imported religions in Africa and their disastrous impact on the people; and Africa’s enforced dependence on foreign aid. Táíwò finds that, as a way to surmount these and other problems, Awoonor expresses a firm belief in the value of traditional Africa as “a worthy base” from which to contemplate and transform the rest of the world, and advocates in his essays a restoration of the rational agency of Africans to its rightful place at the centre of life and thought, policy and planning. This focus on the rational agency of Africans is the ultimate indicator of the philosophical humanism that undergirds Awoonor’s essays.