Tag Archives: oral culture


Interest in Africa surged in the early decades of the twentieth century resulting in the institutionalization of African Studies from the time of World War II. African historical studies, however, began in earnest after 1960 spurring ethnomusicologists to seek historical perspectives in African music. Since the African historical tradition has been primarily oral, the historian of African music is confronted with challenges. This essay aims at discussing possibilities, challenges, and limitations of music historiography in a predominantly oral culture using Ghana as a case in point. The author proposes the consolidation of the histories of individual musical traditions within Ghana into documents whose aim will be to give an overview of music history. A two-pronged approach is suggested – firstly, a systematic documentation of historical sources relevant to Ghanaian cultural areas, and secondly, local/regional/thematic studies relative to categories of music, organology, etc. This will enrich understanding of the historical past of Africa in general.

Keywords: Ghananin culture, historiography, oral culture, organology, systematic documentation