1st Edition

Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana The Porcupine and the Gold Stool

By Kwasi Ampene Copyright 2020
    280 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    280 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana is a comprehensive portrait of Asante court musical arts. Weaving together historical narratives with analyses of texts performed on drums, ivory trumpets, and a cane flute, the book includes a critical assembly of ancient song texts, the poetry of bards (kwadwom), and referential poetry performed by members of the constabulary (apae). The focus is on the intersections between lived experience, music, and values, and refers to musical examples drawn from court ceremonies, rituals, festivals, as well as casual performances elicited in the course of fieldwork. For the Asante, the performing arts are complex sites for recording and storing personal experiences, and they have done so for centuries with remarkable consistency and self-consciousness.

    This book draws on archaeological, archival, historical, ethnographical and analytical sources to craft a view of the Asante experience as manifested in its musical and allied arts. Its goal is to privilege the voices of the Asante and how they express their history, religious philosophy, social values, economic, and political experiences through the musical and allied arts. The author’s theoretical formulation includes the concept of value, referring to ideas, worldview concepts, beliefs, and social relationships that inform musical practices and choices in Asante.

    1. Introduction;  2. Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Historical Perspective;  3. The Language and Poetry of Ivory Trumpets and Durugya Flute;  4. The Language and Poetry of Drums;  5. Rhetoric and History: Kete Songs and Physician’s Songs;  6. Rhetoric and History-Chronicle and Referential Poetry (Kwadwom and Apae)


    Kwasi Ampene is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan (USA). He specializes in the rich musical traditions of the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa. He is author of Female Song Tradition and the Akan of Ghana (Ashgate); Engaging Modernity: Asante in the Twenty-First Century (Michigan Publishing); and the producer of the documentary film, Gone to the Village.

    Winner of the JH Kwabena Nketia Prize for 2022

    "Kwasi Ampene’s Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana is an exemplary study of patient interdisciplinarity. Though much has been written on the subject, no one has attempted to understand Asante court music as a cultural management discourse that entails central dramatis personae as well as reiterative mnemonic system enshrined in instruments, the way they are played, and the manner in which they are spoken about by knowledgeable cultural brokers. This book is a significant contribution not just to the field of African musicology but also to African cultural studies in general." Ato Quayson, FGA, FRSC, FBA, Professor of English, Department of English, Stanford University, USA

    "Kwasi Ampene’s Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana is a work of singal importance. Based on ten years of painstaking research at Manhyia Palace, Kumase, the book charts the history of Asante court music and explicates the poetry of various instrumental and vocal performances. Notable is the deep valuation of language as manifest in speech, song and drummed language. Ampene makes good on the unrestricted access he was granted to centuries-old materials preserved at the court, and produces a book rich with information, including an account of a recent (2016) Akwasidae public assembly. Africanists, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists and linguists will find much of value here. With this book, Ampene consolidates his position as the pre-eminent scholar of Asante musical culture." Kofi Agawu, Distinguished Professor, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA