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1989 Lecture: J.H. Kwabena Nketia
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J.H. Kwabena Nketia, professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh, will deliver the Charles Seeger lecture at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Saturday afternoon, November 11, 1989. His lecture will be entitled "Contextual Strategies of Enquiry and Systemization.”

Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia was born in 1921 in Mampong, one of the premiere states of Ashanti. He studied music at the Presbyterian Training College in Akropong and was appointed to the faculty there in 1942. In 1944 he completed his first monograph, an anthology of Akan songs published in 1949 by Oxford University Press. Nketia studied linguistics, social anthropology, and music for two years at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London. He spent the next three years at SOAS as instructor in Twi, simultaneously completing a three-year course in music, English, and history at Trinity College and Birkbeck College.

Upon returning to Ghana, Nketia was appointed to the Language Bureau and, from 1949 to 1952, was responsible for implementing orthographic revisions in Twi reference works and primary school readers. In 1952 he was appointed Research Fellow in African Studies in the Department of Sociology of the University College of the Gold Coast (Achimota), later the University of Ghana, Legon. He was able to engage in full-time research for much of the following decade, collecting materials published in Funeral Dirges of the Akan People (1955), African Music in Ghana (1962), Drumming in Akan Communities of Ghana (1963), Folk Songs of Ghana (1963), and other publications. He also conducted field work in East Africa as a consultant to UNESCO. In 1958 Nketia received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in support of composition studies at Juilliard and Columbia. During this year he also took a course in organology from Curt Sachs, audited anthropology courses at Northwestern University, and visited colleagues throughout the United States.

In 1961 Nketia assumed responsibility for the Music and Related Arts section of the newly-established Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. He became Director of the Institute, the School of Music and Drama, and the Dance Company in 1964, positions he held until his retirement fifteen years later. The African Studies Program at UCLA invited Nketia to teach a summer course on the music of Africa in 1963, beginning a relationship that culminated in an appointment as Professor of Music in 1968. In 1972 he was invited to Harvard University as Horatio Appleton Lamb Professor of Music and ten years later to the University of Pittsburgh as Andrew Mellon Professor of Music, a position he holds today.

Nketia’s publications – including his widely-read Music of Africa (1974), recently translated into Chinese – have had a strong impact on the study of musics and musical cultures in sub-Saharan Africa. His work evinces not only a continuing interest in the refinement of ethnomusicological theories and methods, but also a deep commitment to the development of a distinctively African musicology, concerned with the pragmatic applications and consequences of scholarship.

In 1951 Kwabena Nketia married Lillie Agyeman-Dua, a young teacher from the Ashanti royal lineage of Mampong. They have four children. He has served on the board of directors of numerous international scholarly societies and was First Vice-President of SEM in 1972.
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