JH Kwabena Nketia

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Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia (born June 22, 1921 in Mampong , Sekyere West District , † March 13, 2019 in Accra ) was a Ghanaian ethnomusicologist and composer .

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Nketia grew up with Akan's mother tongue and was from 1937 to 1941 at the Presbyterian Training College in Akropong (capital of the Akuapim North District ). He studied at the University of London from 1944 to 1949, initially for two years linguistics at the School of Oriental and African Studies and then began a three-year course at Birkbeck College of the University of London and at Trinity College of Music in London , which he received in 1949 Degree of BA.

1952 Nketia was an employee at the University of Ghana . In 1958 he received a Rockefeller Fellowship grant that allowed him to travel to the United States to visit Columbia University (where he studied with Henry Cowell ), the Juilliard School and Northwestern University and study musicology and composition. After returning from the United States, he became a senior fellow at the University of Ghana in 1962, soon afterwards an associate professor, and in 1963 he was appointed full professor there.

Nketia was particularly concerned with the traditional music of the Ewe and generalized his knowledge of traditional African music in several monographs. His book The Music of Africa is considered a standard work and has been translated into several languages, including German. Two contributions in German are also included in the anthology Musikkulturen in Afrika (1987) edited by Erich Stockmann .

His concept and interpretation of rhythmic time and schemes in Ghanaian and other African folk music were revolutionary and have become the standard for researchers and students around the world. For example, Nketia introduced the use of the easier to read 6/8 time in his compositions as an alternative to the two-part 2/4 time with triplets , which was previously used by his teacher and patron Ephraim Amu (1899-1995). Although this notation undermines Amu's theory of constant rhythm, or basic beat, and caused academic controversy, Nketia insisted that the exclusive use of triplets in a two-part time signature was misleading. Today many students around the world have convinced themselves of the usefulness of Nketia's theory and transcribe African music in this way.

Nketia has also taught as a college professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Pittsburgh . As emeritus he heads the International Center for African Music and Dance (ICAMD).

In Ghana, Nketia was also known as a composer. In addition to numerous choral works that can be placed in the tradition of Ephraim Amu, he composed for both Western and African instruments (Ghanaian flute atenteben ). His compositions for piano solo became particularly well known.

Nketia died at the age of 97.


  • African Music in Ghana. Northwestern University Press, Evanston 1963
  • The Music of Africa . WW Norton, 1974, ISBN 0393021777 , ISBN 9780393021776 . German: The music of Africa. 1979
  • African Art Music / The Creative Potential of African Art Music in Ghana . Book accompanying the ICAMD CD recordings (ICAMD - DMVI - ICAMD - DMV4). Afram Publications (Ghana) Ltd., Accra 2004


  • Eric A. Akrofi: Sharing Knowledge and Experience: A Profile of Kwabena Nketia . Afram Publications, Accra 2003, ISBN 9789964703424 .
  • Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje: Nketia, J (oseph) H (anson) Kwabena. In: Grove Music Online, July 25, 2013
  • Tobias Robert Klein: Nketia, J (oseph) H (anson) Kwabena. In: MGG Online, March 2019 ( Music in the past and present , 2004)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Biography of JH Kwabena Nketias on ghanaweb.com
  2. Ghanaian composer Prof. Kwabena Nketia is dead. ghanaweb.com (March 13, 2019).