Prof. Kwabena Nketia
Story: James Harry Obeng
For many people, especially those who have already made up their mind about tonight, as well as those yet to, going to the National Theatre will not be a matter of an option, but a necessity.
This, for instance, is not because the Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama, and the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Georgina Theodora Wood, would be expected to grace the sprawling auditorium.
Neither would it be about the teeming numbers of high-profile dignitaries and guests that would flood the place. Far from that!
It would, rather, be an all-important necessity of celebrating an achiever, a legend and a distinguished compatriot who celebrated his 90th birthday only last Wednesday.
The heroic educational and musical exploits of luminary Prof. (Emeritus) Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia indeed needs to be written in prose and poetry; for the fact that it is not only Ghana or Africa that knows and appreciates his exploits.
The World also knws and sings his strides that have, in many ways, shaped the face of choral music, particularly in Africa. No wonder that he is globally held in such esteem just as Bartok is Western music.
It is for example, his concept and interpretation of time and rhythmic patterns in Ghanaian and African folk music that became the standard for researchers and scholars around the world.
Prof. Nketia also introduced the use of the easier-to-read 6/6 time signature in his compositions, as an alternative to the use of (2/4) time with triplet used earlier by his mentor, Ephraim Amu.
Although this ‘undermined’ Amu’s theory of a constant basic rhythm (or pulse) in African music, and generated quite some debate, Prof. Nketia maintained that the constant use of trplet in a duple time signature was misleading. Today, many scholars around the world have found Nketia’s theory very useful in transcription African music, aside his extensively writings on Western orchestral instrument – like the flute, violin, cello, percussion and piano among many other achievements!
It is in this regard, among other reasons that Country braces up to celebrate with a choral concert dubbed the Nketiah @ 90 Choral Concert tonight, June 25, at the National Theatre, and the most interesting aspect is that Prof. Nketia himself, after so many years off the stage, would be performing.
Other choral musical performances on the night would be delivered by the Tema, Wnneba and the University of Cape Coast (UCC) youth choirs, the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Dance Ensemble. Contemporary Highlife musician Kwabena Kwabena, and gospel musicians Bernice Ofei, DSP Kofi Sarpong and Nana Yaw Perbi, among others, would also perform.
Born June 22, 1921, at Mampong in the Ashanti Region, Prof. Nketia trained as a teacher at the Presbyterian Training College, Akropong Akwapim, where he later taught and was appointed Acting Principal in 1952.
At 23, he enrolled at the Universtiy of London and studied for a certificate at the School of Oriental and African Studies, through a government scholarship. He then went to the Birkeck College, University of London, in 1949, and the Trinity College of Music, London, and obainted a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.
In 1958, he traveled to the United States, attended the Columbia University, the Juliard School of Music and the Northwestern University, all in pursuance of musicology and composition.
After a year in the United States, he returned to the University of Ghana, where he rose through the ranks, from a Senior Research Fellow (1962), to Associate Professor, and then a Professor in 1963.
Two years later, he was appointed Director of the Institute of Africa Studies (IAS).
Some of his well-known choral works with the piano accompaniment include Yaanom Montie, Onipa Dasani Nni Aye, Onipa Beyee Bi, Yiadom Heneba, Mekae Na Woantie, Maforo Pata Hunu, Obarima Nifahene and Asua Meresen.
Prof. Nketia is a recipient of numerous national and international awards, such as the Companion of the Order of the Star of Ghana, the Grand Medal of Government of Ghana, Ghana Gospel Music Special Awards, Cowell Awards of African Music Society and the Ghana Book Awards, among others.
He is currently the Chancellor of the Presbyterian University of Music at UCLA, University of Pittsburg.
The Ghanaian Times Page: 11 Saturday, June 25, 2011