Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana: The Porcupine and the Golden Stool, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana

The Porcupine and the Golden Stool, 1st Edition

By Kwasi Ampene


264 pages | 31 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367356101
pub: 2020-05-25
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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. 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 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, Stranford University USA

2. Kwasi Ampene’s Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana is a work of signal 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


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Historical Perspective

Chapter 3. The Language and Poetry of Ivory Trumpets and Durugya Flute

Chapter 4. The Language and Poetry of Drums

Chapter 5. Rhetoric and History-Kete Songs and Physician’s Songs

Chapter 6. Rhetoric and History-Chronicle and Referential Poetry (Kwadwom and Apae)

About the Author

KWASI AMPENE is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Music and in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies He is author of Female Song Tradition and the Akan of Ghana: The Creative Process in Nnwonkor? (Ashgate, 2005).

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music Series

SOAS Musicology Series is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology