Let the Memory of
Emeritus Professor Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia
(22nd June, 1921 – 13th March, 2019)
be With us Forevermore!

This memorial website was created in memory of Our Very Most Beloved One, Emeritus Prof. J.H. Kwabena Nketia. We will remember and cherish him forever. Prof., May God bless you, and grant you Eternal Rest!

Posted by Daniel Reed on 21st March 2019
At symposia, conferences, and such events over the years, Prof. was ever generous with his smile, his thoughts and his open heart. I'll never forget showing up at his office in Legon unannounced one day when traveling while taking a break from field research in Cote d'Ivoire in 1997. He warmly welcomed me in for a conversation I will never forget. His grand influence spreads through those many African music scholars he mentored, who became mentors for yet more students, who have taught still others... My Ivorian mentors Paul Dagri and Adépo Yapo are but two of the branches of the Nketia tree who supported my budding research 25 years ago. Thanks Prof. Nketia. May you rest in peace.
Posted by Judy Mitoma on 21st March 2019
As tributes flow to you Prof each is a tear that draws for each of our life force~ we honor you as one who stand alone. You have touched us, inspired us, taught us. Alas it was 1964 when I first met your smiling face in the halls of the UCLA Institute of Ethnomusicology. Your presence brought intellectual, creative and cultural weight to those inclusive international circles. I was only a freshmen at the time, but I knew that your presence was not to be taken lightly. To visit you in 1990 in Accra was a highlight of my life- Even then it was hard to keep track of the many times you retired. But being back in Ghana was where you were most happy and perhaps most needed. I bow deeply to you Prof- you are an inspiration and will not be forgotten.
Posted by Steven Tyler Spinner Terp... on 21st March 2019
In the course of my dissertation research on choral music in Ghana during 2013-15 Prof. Nketia was incredibly generous with me, sharing stories of his lived history and relationships with everyone from Ephraim Amu and Nkrumah, to Henry Cowell and Zoltán Kodály. Sometimes after speaking for over four hours it was I who had become exhausted and needed a break. I am emensely grateful for these conversations and the wisdom he conveyed through his extensive writings. As a central actor in both the formation of Ghana and the establishment of ethnomusicology in the US, his death is truely a great loss and the end of an era.
Posted by Lois Wilcken on 21st March 2019
Although I met Dr. Nketia only at professional conferences, I feel I knew/know him. As a scholar of Haitian Vodou drumming, his work was essential to understanding the foundations of the patterns I studied. Knowing what I do about the spiritual dimension of Vodou music, I am certain he is always with us, albeit unseen. Deepest condolences to his family and close friends. Take care.
Posted by Dorothy Wong on 21st March 2019
My condolences to your family and friends. May he r. i. p.
Posted by Kathleen J Van Buren on 20th March 2019
I met Professor Nketia as an undergraduate student visiting Ghana for drumming studies, and again as a graduate student at UCLA. Having read his work and known of his influence, it was a great honor to be able to meet him on these occasions. I was struck by his humility, kindness, and respect to me, just a student and young researcher. This made a deep impression upon me. May we as scholars follow his example of sharing not just knowledge, but also grace. I send condolences to Professor Nketia's family and all those impacted by him.
Posted by Emmanuel Opoku Sarkodie on 20th March 2019
I met Emeritus Prof. J.H Nketiah when we went to administer the Holy Communion to the aged at his residence. It was such an honor and a humbling moment to come face to face with a great statesman. Even In his old age, you could sense his level of humility and gentleness. On behalf of the Immanuel Congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana Madina, we express our condolence to the family of our Grandfather, Father, and great mentor. Rest peacefully in the Bossom of our Lord.
Posted by Clifford Campbell on 18th March 2019
As an expression of my profound appreciation for your contributions to my academic journey, I accept with grace, humility and pride, your transition from an exceptional professor, to an immortal academic. Already substantial, the impressive pantheon of the ancestors have undoubtedly improved now with you in their midst. I can only imagine, the great heights to which the choral music there will soar! I salute you Prof.
Posted by Leander David on 18th March 2019
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes Was not said of the fine dust Which was blown and now in our entrails It remains forever relevant Forever in the hearts purer In the souls fresher In the minds incorruptible Behind the veil I see A psyche leaves its body, dark skin so tall that penetrates the skies A master builder of the times who once lived in a coast of gold South of the Sahara where the Greenwich meridian cuts across The light at the great hall dimming Oh Legon loses its own, a professor, a composer A maestro and father to ethno music Great masters never fall they sleep the long sleep The sleep of the fathers, the ancient ones We will mourn not your loss Because we still have them What you left mankind What you stood for Your idles, dreams Your handiworks, deeds Oh master, master composer, master of the arts you are Nature in harmony you left us In letters, signs keys, lines sounds fine, tunes in rhymes They vibrate and echo at the same time They float and navigate tribes, cultures A soul that made audible and plain the language of souls The messages of the powers that be you captured To shape a whole generation, an era, a civilization, a time There is beauty in harmony of notes but you led us to unity through musical harmony Oh master, master lyricist Once I sought to see you but now I have all of you even those who think in line with you I wanted to hear your voice but now have it even with the echoes of your voices I wanted to feel your presence but now I have more than that, your presences across the seas and beyond the spheres Now we still see you in the mind’s eye A life like a river which flowed in the dirty boisterous waves Yet never lost its colour, fresh smell and taste. Oh life is death, death’s liveliness and youth, its storm before the calm. Death is life, life before another begins. In death is life, a transformed life. Life never ceases, it pauses several times to renew itself and transformed into other garbs when death calls giving way to other different forms of life. Legon will arise Ethno music will survive Whatever you loved will still smile The earth lie lightly on you Wo jogban Emeritus Prof. Kwabena Nketia
Posted by Mohamed Sulieman on 17th March 2019
On behalf of Sudanese researches,I send our condolences to our colleagues in and out of Africa for the inspired Godfather J H Kwabena nektia. Asking Allah to bless his soul and sleep in peace.
Posted by Steven Feld on 17th March 2019
I met Professor Nketia when I was a graduate student in Africanist Anthropology, Linguistics, and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University in the early 1970s. Professor Alan Merriam, the well known author of The Anthropology of Music, arranged a visit for Prof to speak to our African Humanities Seminar and African Music class. In advance of the visit we students poured over Prof’s publications and made class presentations about the depth of history, theory, and empirical research chronicled there. Being the student most interested in relations of language and music, I was assigned to report on Prof’s book on the funerary dirges of the Akan peoples. I was truly mesmerized by the work and remember reading it twice through with the care and patience that would honor the deep research and analysis. Funerary lamentation thus became the subject of our first conversation and subsequent correspondence for more than 25 years, when I worked on the theme in Papua New Guinea. Then, by chance, I came to Ghana in 2004. And as luck would have it, have visited for music performance, research, and learning each of the 15 years since. Prof welcomed me back into African music studies, and ever so generously answered myriad questions, and asked many others. He was always gracious, generous, kind, and exceedingly humble, a true model of intellectual and personal integrity. I count our many visits, particularly during the first five years if my work on jazz cosmopolitanism in Accra, as among my best conversations with a mentor, colleague, and inspirational senior scholar. Prof thank you for so so many gifts to the world of African music scholarship, and for your truly memorable and gracious welcome of a student, colleague, and friend from afar. Rest In Peace, Sir.
Posted by Addai Paul on 17th March 2019
Emeritus Prof. J.H.K Nketiah was classified as one of the best chorale composers we had in the country and at large. I always call him the Father Of Chorale Music. May his soul rest in peace.
Posted by Anumnyam Anumnyam on 17th March 2019
Prof, So sad to hear of your departure. It was great honour knowing you at first hand. I remember how you freely offered me your notes to assist in my studies when I was a student at the School of Preforming Arts, Legon. What a kind, unassuming soul. Thinking about you bring to mind Dr. Ephraim Amu, Mawure Opoku and Ghanaba, The Divine Drummer. A generation of shining stars with whom you held high our Arts and cultural practices with intellectual depth accross the globe. Great soul, when you go we greet these kindred spirits. Tell them we offer them a calabash of water with a citation to uphold their good works, and to Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah who lit the flame. Prof. May the ancestors bid you welcome
Posted by Eugene Kena-Amoah on 17th March 2019
DR. EPHRAIM KOKU AMU will be so proud of you, to hug you and say, AYEKOO Indeed a true legacy is not only the things you've achieved but a true legacy is a life you've touched. Life well lived... From Kena-Amoah family
Posted by Gabriel S.K. Anderson on 17th March 2019
GAM Melodies Organisation was really saddened to hear the death of our wonderful Father Emeritus Prof. J.H Kwabena Nketia. He was an extraordinary man. There are many in the community who will morn deeply his passing, as his was a life of service, love,compassion and an excellent inspirational speaker to the youth at large. May his soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!
Posted by Udoka Ossaiga on 16th March 2019
Prof Nketia, you have sounded your notes, and danced in tandem with your tune to the great beyond. Though you've transitted, your work, and memory remain with us. May God console your family, and loved ones.
Posted by Collins Mcjoseph on 16th March 2019
Eml) anyi kpoooo. Atiga ad3 mu. Prof. J.H. Nketia, you have been a founding father of Ghanaian art music. An inspiration to both young and old. Tho we are saddened by your departure, we know in the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. Hede Nyuie.
Posted by Martin-unique Mintah on 16th March 2019
Prof Nketia, may the Almighty Lord keep your legendary soul peacefully. In our hearts and minds you have written the legacy of life. Rest well. Due!
Posted by Peter Twum - Barimah on 16th March 2019
A TRIBUTE TO EMERITUS PROF. J.H.K NKETIA A life well lived is better than a life lived without touching the lives of people. As a young man, I have read books and articles and sang songs composed by prof. Nketia. These hand works of Prof have made me appreciate Ghanaian traditional music. As a graduate student at the University of Ghana, he has inspired me with his contributions to the Arts in Ghana. I also recall the few discussions concerning African music at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana. Prof's humility was one thing that has inspired me. Emeritus Professor Nketia was a true legend. May your gentle soul rest in Perfect Peace. Damirifa due!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Egberto Bermudez on 16th March 2019
In 1977 The Music of Africa -found by chance on the shelves of Senate House Library- along with the lectures of Kenneth A. Gourlay (1919-95) opened my eyes to help me understand what ‘afro-american music’ meant. Much later -in October 2011- my late friend and colleague Coriun Aharonian (1940-2017) ask me to write a tribute to Prof. J. H. Kwabena Nketia (1921-2019) for the decoration ceremony held in Montevideo (Uruguay) for the opening of the International Conference La música entre Africa y América/Music between Africa and the Americas convened in his honor on the occasion of his 90th birthday. There I had the pleasure of meeting him and yet again on my first and very belated visit to Africa (Legon, Ghana) in August 2018 for the memorable ICTM Symposium African Music Scholarship in the Twenty-first Century: Challenges and directions. On the 2011 Encomium I wrote about the pending task for us in Latin America to “read, study, assimilate, analyze and debate Nketia’s ideas and those of his predecessors and continuators as part of the tradition of scholarly approach to African and African related musics. It is the best homage we can offer today to Kwabena Nketia and the undisputable excellence of his career and legacy”. Egberto Bermúdez Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá Vice-President International Musicological Society (IMS)
Posted by Damien Pwono on 16th March 2019
I am terribly sorry to hear about the passing of our beloved father, teacher, and mentor! Prof. Nketia was an extraordinary human being who lived such an extraordinary life. As Andrews, Prof’s Assistant, will recall, my recent get together with Prof in Accra last November was an emotionally charged "farewell" moment as he constantly referred to it. We joked and laughed about diverse shared experiences as we recalled fond memories from many cities over 30 years, including Accra, Amman, Bahia, Bellagio, Boston, Hollywood, Kinshasa, Nairobi, Muscat, New York, Paris, Pittsburgh, Salvador de Bahia, and Sao Paulo. It is with much grief that I am extending my deep and heartfelt sympathy to his biological family and world of music. May his soul rest in eternal and perfect peace! Let us be strong for the continuation of his work for his legacy to remain as an inspiration to us and to other scholars to come!
Posted by Dr. AB Assensoh on 16th March 2019
It was through my former doctoral (Ph.D.) student -- Dr Nana Abena Amoah-Ramey of Indiana, USA -- that I met Emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia at his Accra residence. When co-supervising Nana Abena's Ph.D. dissertation in Ethno-musicology and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University, I came across several of Dr. Nketia's works. Therefore, when asked to write an entirely new foreword to Nana Abena's first published 2018 book, "Female Highlife Performers in Ghana: Expression, Resistance, and Advocacy", I agreed with the author that it would be great to meet, in person, Emeritus Professor Nketia. It was arranged for me to meet him by Nana Abena (who was still back in the USA) and, now deceased, Mrs. Bridget Kyerematen-Darko of Accra; Sister Bridget (as my spouse and I called her), drove me one day to meet the two great scholars: University of Ghana Emeritus Professors Kwame Arhin, and Nketia. The meetings were educative exercises in themselves; I previously knew Dr. Arhin (a.k.a. Nana Arhin Brempong), but it was a first meeting with Dr. Nketia. I thank God and my stars that I met both of them at the time. May the souls of both astute Ghanaian scholars rest in perfect peace until we meet again in Heaven. Indiana University Emeritus Professor A.B. Assensoh, LL.M., Ph.D. & also University of Oregon Courtesy Emeritus Professor, Oregon, USA. (Saturday, March 16, 2019)
Posted by Stephen Olusoji on 16th March 2019
I met Papa Nketia,years back when he came to University of Lagos,Nigeria with Prof .Agyemfra to deliver lecture on African art music.l was able to sip from his musical fountain of knowledge and had better understanding of the composition of African art music through his lectures and recordings.We lost a rare scholar and the father of African musicology. Adieu Pa Nketia.My condolences to the family ,musicians and musicologists in Ghana,Africa and all over the world.
Posted by John Nutekpor on 16th March 2019
The year was 1995, the venue was Drama Studio, the Event was Matemasie and my academic qualification was Ordinary Level Certificate. That was the beginning point of my academic journey in the field of Performing Arts and the late Professor Emeritus J.H Nketia made that difference in navigating my field by advising me to focus on Music as my specialty. I appreciate this good course which has propelled me in advancing to a PhD status. Rest in Peace Prof. Nketia. (From University of Limerick Ireland)
Posted by Rebecca Tandoh on 16th March 2019
Prof i am saddened by your passing. However, i am glad that i met you. I am truly grateful for all the discussions. You really added a lot of value to my academic journey and endeavors. Wofa, me da wo ase Esie ne kegya nni aseda Wofa, da yie
Posted by Dele Layiwola on 16th March 2019
Emeritus Professor Nketia had been a father to us all in the business of the cultural studies and appreciation of Africa. His field experience in ethnographic research was phenomenal. With my wife, I and our children visited him at home on two of our holiday trips to Accra. As he saw us off to our vehicle on our second and last visit, our sons remarked that ‘this humble old man always reminded us of our grandpa’. May his soul find a perfect balance in the higher realms. Medaase Papaa. Dele.
Posted by Quang Hai Tran on 16th March 2019
Dear uncle I met you in Berlin in 2000 and we talked about the beautiful friendship between you and my father ( the late Prof Tran Van Khe) You accepted me as your nephew. I gave me your book African Music and I discovered African music with so many wonderful musical treasures Now you have left us for ever and I wish you remain in Peace . with my love and sincere condolences to your family Tran Quang Hai France .
Posted by Harold Richter on 15th March 2019
May you rest in Perfect Peace Prof. Mission accomplished here on earth, now unto greater things for the Lord. You were an inspiration and continue to this day to many generations of music lovers and students. Your contribution to music and African music in general is unmeasurable, God bless and comfort your family in this difficult time, R.I.P
Posted by Newlove Annan on 16th March 2019
I thank you oo, Prof. I will be forever grateful. You were so real. Thank you for teaching me about God more than all these.
Posted by Denis Adjei Adjetey on 15th March 2019
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is ... "heard no more"... Was a privilege to have nursed you Prof. ; May your soul rest in perfect peace!
Posted by Kwame Osae on 15th March 2019
I never had the chance to meet Prof. But heard his songs, beautiful lyrics. A sign of a musical legend. And seeing him sing with passion during Ghana our motherland concert by harmonious chorale, it dawned on me how committed he was. If Today he's no more, then I say he has really left a legacy... A legacy that will never be forgotten. He's indeed a beacon up high on a mountain. Rest well Professor Emeritus Till we meet on that glorious morn
Posted by Augustine Christian on 15th March 2019
Your entire life was expressed in songs That emphasize cultural, social, material and other dimensions You touched many lives including mine We will forever remember you through your works R I P
Posted by Maxwell Ofori on 15th March 2019
I had a one on one interview with Prof Emeritus JH Nketia in late last year at the inauguration of the Choral Musicians and Singers Union of Ghana (CHOMSUGHA. He predicted a very bright future for Choral music in the country, but advised industry players to project nationalism and patriotism in the youth especially. It was a great honor spending time with such illustrious son of the land. Fare thee well Prof.
Posted by Ernesto Gutiérrez on 15th March 2019
I'm from Colombia, South America. "I am not African because I wasn't born in Africa, but I am African because Africa was born in me." And it was born in me, because I met the Master Kwavena Nketia for a book that my music teacher lent me. Master Kwavena Nketia wove an invisible bridge that led me to look for others, like the Master Willie Anku who developed my interest in the rhythmic aesthetics of my drums initiation. Beyond rhythm there is a spirit. That spirit is what I have to build each day from the seed that African sages have left inside my soul, I love the drums, the great Atumpan who have always spoken to me and linked me to the African continent, thanks to which I want to design the Center for Intercultural Studies today, with a big underline in Africa, in the Atumpan and in the ritualization of life, Master Kwavena Nketia will always live in drums and music.
Posted by Robert Asafoatse on 15th March 2019
A towering international giant . Fare thee well . Your great works and legacy will live eternally on . May your great soul rest in perfect peace
Posted by Carl Ampah on 15th March 2019
A cultural icon has departed leaving a big gap, however, his works and legacies live on. Condolences to the bereaved families. My prayers and thoughts are with you.
Posted by Philip Brunelle on 15th March 2019
I hold Professor Nketia in fond memory, remembering our time together on one of my trips to Ghana. His book, "The Music of Africa" in 1974 was a monumental work that opened the eyes of many to the rich treasures of the African continent. We are all the beneficiaries of his more than 200 publications. Well done, good and faithful servant. Philip Brunelle, Artistic Director and Founder, VocalEssence, USA
Posted by Gyamfi Boaten on 15th March 2019
Ghana has lost a gem. I last saw you at Emmanuel Congregation at Madina and your words was' Whatever you do must be done to appreciate your Maker and to the benefit of Society. PAPA YOU HAVE PAID YOUR DUE. Ghana will forever miss you. Rest in Peace!
Posted by Seth Adzokatse on 15th March 2019
Always inspired when i hear or sing any of your composition. I always remember Monkanfo no which we learnt in Labone Secondary School Choir. Ah i just remembered Moda Nase which we also sung at Labone and many more. As a Presbyterian Minister i also cherish your contribution to the worship life of the PCG and the Christian Church in general. Mo Akwao pa nokwafo! Woyebi! Oboade nfa wo nsie!
Posted by Nii Okai on 15th March 2019
Prof is a true legend. I recount his telling our MA class in ACI how he refused to be honored unless his mentor (Ephraim Amu) was honored first. He is a now a noble ancestor who knew and served the Lord Jesus Christ. Rest well until we meet on that beautiful shore
Posted by Frank Bonsu on 15th March 2019
I met Prof Nketsiah 8th February 2014 and shared a lot of experiences with me. He advised me on how to make my music career very good anytime we met. As a hero in life, all I can say is we bless God for such a man he blessed us with and we pray that may he enjoy good life in eternity
Posted by Kwabena Akurang-Parry on 15th March 2019
I met Emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia in late 2015. His impact on me was immediate and refreshing. He told me that it was about time we moved African/a Studies from the bookshelves to the streets to empower and conscientize the African masses. I am proud to say such outreach programs are now an integral part of my work as a scholar-teacher. Hmm! When I was told that Emeritus Professor Nketia had gone to the precincts of death, I felt numbed. I looked around and the sun of meticulous scholarship with its forensic details had set. But I was reminded that the sun always rises and that Emeritus Professor Nketia, the seer of responsible African Studies with his massive cathedral of scholarship and incandescent epistemology that restored African contributions to global culture and history, shall rise again and again. Emeritus Professor Nketia’s legendary life, visionary signposts, impeccable credentials, and sustained meritorious contributions to documenting and preserving Africana music, cultures, histories, and languages are worth emulating and absolutely deserve veneration and memorialization, especially in the aftermath of his passing. For this reason, all stakeholders in his intellectual estate should ensure that his legacy inexorably lives on. This is because Emeritus Professor Nketia will remain the Sun of our cultures, histories, ontologies, and epistemologies. Indeed, our sense of alternative truths about the Africana world orbits along his luminescent research and publications that debunks Hobbesian notions of African pathology. Emeritus Professor Nketia will remain our enduring archive whose assets of decades of research and publications are boundless and unequaled in Ghana’s home of African Studies. In fact, his works exemplify that stock-taking of culture and history demand documentation before dissemination, and should not be framed in mere public incantations debited to memory and history. He will remain our watershed of limitless African possibilities whose profound achievements shatters the Hegelian glass of African inferiority and notions of cultural orphans. He will remain our eminent professor among veritable professors, the centripetal force of Africana knowledge. And he will remain the foremost Africana ethnomusicologist whose praxes are peerless tendering indubitable preamble to the study of Africana music and dance. Ghana has lost one of her greatest sons, but Emeritus Professor Nketia will rise again and again like the Sun and continue to provide limitless warmth to the nurturing of Africana knowledge. Opanyin Kwabena Nketia nantew yiye [fare thee well] and may the great ancestors serenade you with pomp and pageantry of African music and give you an eternal place of bliss to rest. Kwabena Akurang-Parry, PhD (Prof of African History, World Studies & Heritage Studies)
Posted by Monique Charles on 15th March 2019
It was an honour to meet you, learn your works and hear you speak. Truly inspiring.
Posted by Dele Ajaja on 15th March 2019
A TRIBUTE TO PROFESSOR JOSEPH HANSON KWABENA NKETIA (June 22, 1921 – MARCH 13, 2019) By Dele Ajaja I ambled to the Lagoon for an urn of water; Away to the brook to launder the garments. Back home, the significant person was missing; My eyes streamed with disconcerting tears. The legendary one has gone to repose; Gone, with music in his trails! Now, we have to see blue dye, Before we sight the blue-woodcock. We must spot camwood resin, Before we behold the red-woodcock. We have to glimpse white-chalk, Before we view the cattle-egret! The trailblazing Elephant has drowsed, We could see him ONLY in our dreams. Sleeping like a stunning mountain, We could only sight his apparition, henceforward. Slumbering endlessly, without rousing, The exceptional one has gone home to roost! Take respite, the great one, Repose calmly, the one who catered to all. Fare thee well, the one with a heart of gold, Rest soundly, true Father of Many Nations, Accept our love, man among the men of his time, Goodnight, the People’s Professor! ----------------- * DELE AJAJA, US-based Nigerian journalist, who lived in Ghana for two-and-a-half years, nicknamed Professor Nketia ‘Father of Many Nations,’ because of how the late professor and his family welcomed and hosted foreigners without knowing them previously.
Posted by Andrews K. Agyemfra-Tette... on 15th March 2019
My Libation : ------- O, My Master and Ancestor Nketia, Who never knew a Moment of Inertia: Let your wisdom guide our conscience! Let your presence be felt in your absence! Bring your Great African Mind into all our Learning! Help us, as we strive in Reading! Searching! and Writing! Help us honour your presence dearly! Even now in absentia! May we never dare forget your excellence in ungrateful amnesia! ------- O, Supreme Professor of Professors! Well done! SALUTE!

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