Entertainment of Wednesday, 26 April 2006
Accra, April 26, GNA - Dr Alexander Agordoh, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies on Tuesday paid glowing tribute to the musical prowess of Dr Ephraim Amu, saying he laid a solid foundation for contemporary African music.
Delivering this year's Ephraim Amu memorial lectures, Dr Agordoh said as the first Ghanaian to write music "with full awareness of the artistic potential of the tonal inflections and the rhythmic flow of Ghanaian languages", Amu prepared the grounds on how African rhythmic motifs should be organised.
"He was the first Ghanaian, and perhaps the first African, to build African music by writing the Western type of harmony with African rhythm, a technique completely unknown before his time," he said. This year's lecture, the eight in the series, was on the theme: "Bridging the Gap between Tradition and Modernity: Amu as Music Educator."
Participants at the lecture were treated to a rendition of some of the evergreen compositions of Dr Amu by a mass choir from the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Dr Agordoh said the fusion of African and western music idioms in a manner that gave particular prominence to the strong features of African Music was a strategy used by Dr Amu to re-instate African cultural identity in the churches and schools and in the process bridge the gap between tradition and modernity.
The lecture traced the life of Dr Amu as a Music Educator, Christian Educator, social educator and as a craftsman and farmer. Dr Agordoh said Amu's works left an indelible mark because of his rich understanding of tradition, which he craftily blended with western norms to build his creation.
"As an educator, Amu was always starting from the known to the unknown and his sources were the tradition, thus combining it with what was good from the West."
Realising the dearth of training music teachers, Dr Amu introduced a course in African Rhythm at Akropong Presbyterian Training College and later established and directed the Achimota School of Music.
Dr Agordoh said all these efforts led to the institutionalisation of the teaching of African music in the country. "Dr Amu laid the foundation for the system of notation of African rhythm and wrote exercises to assist his students. He also ran refresher courses for music teachers because his main concern was music literacy in this country," Dr Agordoh said.
He described Dr Amu as a revolutionary who was trying to rediscover his culture, which he wanted to pass on to his students as a music educator.
As a Christian, Dr Amu felt that writing songs in the Ghanaian languages and fusing African and Western idioms, would bring a big relief to non-literates who could not join in the singing of western hymns, he added.
Dr Agordoh said Amu used his music to preach the virtues of morality, service of man to his fellow man and the search for ultimate serenity of heart and mind.
"The greater number of Amu's choral works has sacred themes. There are songs in commemoration of man's nothingness before God, while others are invocations to God to guide the tottering world or the discomforted individual".
Dr Agordoh said Dr Amu used his patriotic songs as a political asset to communicate his feelings and thought system, preaching the spirit of good citizenship to Africans.
According to him, Dr Amu was a bridge between Tradition and Modernity by seeking to retain the best in African cultural expression. Dr Amu who was born in 1899, attained national stature very early in his life as a creative artist and an intellectual.