By A.B. Chinbuah
Ephraim Amu was a hero of a kind. His was that of music, culture, pride in connection with the land of our birth and preservation of the good customs and conventions, which our forefathers handed over to us.
He was a great and famous man who graced our generations and made our folk a nation. Long before it became fashionable to talk of African personality and make noises about it over the hill and mountaintops, Ephraim Amu was practising it and even suffered for it.
He was mostly and largely known for his music and compositions but beyond that he was known for wearing African cloth and using African utensils for his food and drinks.
Ephraim Amu was born in 1899 at Peki Avetile. Ephraim’s parents were Steven Amu-Yao and Madam Sarah Amma. He was baptised in the Bremen Mission, which was the predominant Church in the Trans-Volta Togoland.
He attended School at Peki Blengo Primary and Middle Schools from 1906-1915.
His father’s passion for farming, music and African carvings were instilled in him and he also embraced them in toto to the delight of his father and family.
However, instead of concentrating on his passion for the above, he decided to seek the Golden Fleece of higher education alongside his interest in music and culture.
He therefore furthered his education at the Presbyterian Teachers’ Seminary at Abetifi. He became a teacher at his alma mater, Peki Blengo Middle Boarding School from 1921-1926.
In his spare time, he pursued his musical studies and composition of songs. His students benefited immensely from his musical teachings. He composed and taught them various indigenous songs, which they sang, to the joy of the general public. They were therefore sad when he was transferred to the Presbyterian Seminary at Akropong in 1926.
At Akropong, Ephraim Amu became completely converted to African music and culture. He continued his education through the reading of books and with the help of experts like Reverend Allotey Pappoe.
He invested almost all his resources in the purchase of an organ and researched into African music in Ewe and Akan, Kwahu, Assin and Denkyira. His research led him to replace European lyrics and tunes with indigenous music.
In 1928, he composed the Akropong College Anthem to mark the Centenary of the Presbyterian Church in Ghana. He also composed songs for schools and various singing bands. He introduced choral music in Akropong Presbyterian Training College and explained them in simple term to his pupils and musicians. He in this way laid the firm foundation for indigenous music education and provided a resource material for Ghanaian musicians both in churches, schools and the country at large.
Amu frequently wore cloth, even to school and church. This brought him into conflict with the Synod Committee of the Presbyterian Church.
To make matters worse, he introduced drumming in the church. He was relieved of his duties at the Training College and when he returned to the Evangelical Presbyterian (EP) Church at Peki, they too would not accept him.
He eventually landed at Achimota School where Rev. A.G. Frazer, Principal of the School, welcomed him. He taught Ewe, Twi, Music, Drumming, Folklore and Dancing in the school. At Achimota, he wore locally made cloth and also ate from utensils produced by the ceramics department of the school
He moved from Achimota in 1951 to the Kumasi College of Technology Music School where he continued his teaching and research into indigenous music. He retired in 1969 when the music school was moved to Winneba.
In his retirement, he won a Rockefeller Foundation grant from the USA to enable him embark on a research and teaching course at the Institute when Music, Dancing and Drumming became part of the curriculum of the school. He was the Head of the school until he retired again in 1971.