Music of Ghana: Incorporating West African Music into the Elementary Music Curriculum

July 28, 1992 / By: Michelle Marie Ehlers

As the world moves closer to a global community, music education needs to bring the world into the music classroom. As educators, however, we must offer a place where music of other cultures can be accepted with an open mind. African music has many wonderful things to offer to our students including the appreciation that everyone can participate in music making. Everyone has something to offer to music. While many skill levels may exist, they can all co-exist with each other.

This project provided a brief description of West African people, their culture, types of music and its musical elements. Another purpose of this project was to further the understanding of teachers and students in their music making and to diminish misconceptions about West Africa. This project also examined the sound sources (instruments) that are used in the music classroom. Finally, this project provided a collection of practical lesson applications, using authentic music, games and stories, which will allow teachers to create with their students the music and culture of Ghana and West Africa.

If we are to accurately teach our children about different cultures, we as teachers need to question what we read, attend workshops and college courses on world music, and become literate. In choosing music, we need to examine it from a variety of angles. Has the original language been included with the music or has someone translated the song leaving only the English translation? Are the lyrics accurately translated, with the ethnic group or country of the song cited? Are the authors members of the ethnic group from whom the music originates and do they have first hand knowledge of this particular music? Has an audio tape been made available to allow the teacher to hear what the music should sound like? Why will your students benefit from this piece? It is our responsibility to represent the music of other countries as accurately as possible to our students.

I have come to the conclusion that it is possible for non-African music educators to teach the music of Ghana and West Africa in an authentic manner to their students. In order for this to occur, however, music educators must be willing to learn about the culture of West Africa because the music is an integral part of culture. Without taking time to understand what it means to live in West Africa and to participate in music making within this culture, we risk continuing the stereotypes which already exist. It is my hope that this project will encourage music educators to use the music of Ghana and West Africa in their classrooms and to begin their own oral tradition of music.