Music and African studies stalwart, Professor Emeritus Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia, was given a prolonged standing ovation last Wednesday by a large gathering when he took the stage to make remarks at a joint thanksgiving service and party to mark his 95th birthday in Accra.
The guests, attired mostly in white, waved white handkerchiefs in praise to God and danced to tunes provided by the Police Band and the choir of the Emmanuel Congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Madina, all in celebration of the renowned scholar.
The colourful event brought together a cross-section of society, including members of academia, functionaries in the creative industry and the clergy.
Prof. Emeritus Nketia
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Prof. Nketia, who retired from the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1979, was the first African Director of the Institute of African Studies of the university.
Born at Mampong-Asante on June 22, 1921, the composer, ethno-musicologist, writer and mentor had, in the past, also held positions such as acting Principal of the Presbyterian Training College (PTC), Professor of Music at the University of Ghana and Chancellor of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture in Akropong.
The senior citizen, who is active and mentally alert at 95, thrilled the audience when he conducted the Police Band as it played melodious tunes to entertain guests.
‘Promote African music’
In his remarks, Prof. Emeritus Nketia said the best way to portray African culture was for African countries to imbibe traditional values that resonated with Africa.
“We have to appreciate African music. Through African music, people get to know more about Africa and the culture of African countries. “Traditional values and institutions provide a valuable avenue for building a strong African music industry and so there is the need to collaborate with traditional structures in that direction,” he stressed.
He said traditional music formed the basis for African scholarship in music and that called for collaboration with people who had knowledge in African culture.
“A lot of my knowledge in music came from traditional people, but I could not have come this far without the hand of God in my life,” he added.
Book on African culture
The 95-year-old, who has more than 200 publications and 80 musical compositions to his credit, used the occasion to publicise a book titled: “Traditional Music in Contemporary Africa” and urged members of the public to get copies, saying it contained a lot of information about Ghanaian, African and world music. “The book summarises efforts to bring traditional values into contemporary context and also portrays the culture of Africa to the rest of the world,” he said.
Thumbs up to Prof. Nketia
The President of the Trinity Theological Seminary, Rev. Prof. J.O.Y. Mante, who gave the word of exhortation at the celebration, likened Prof. Emeritus Nketia to the proverbial elephant that could be described from different perspectives.
He described the celebrant as a teacher, lecturer, composer, conductor and life coach for many people.
“Prof. Nketia is many things to many people. We are living with a legend but we do not know because familiarity breeds contempt. He is a world legend in terms of music,” he added.
Preaching the sermon, the Pastor of the Faith Encounter International Ministries, Rev. Tim Brew, who based his sermon on Psalm 145:1-5, called on all to establish a good relationship with God through worship and thanksgiving.