Seashore Harmonies: the Message in the Songs of a Dying Fishing Culture


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Music & Dance


Indegenous Ghanaian fishermen in many coastal towns propelled their canoes and boats through manual rowers who sang as they rowed to sea. These songs, which served a variety of purposes, have grown extinct since outboard motors have come as a convenient substitute to the manual rowing. The place for the singing now is when the fishermen are pulling their nets on shore. Their songs, apart from providing useful reference points for synchronizing their individual efforts and hence easing the labour, also contain vital pieces of encoded information. Unfortunately, modernism has made the death of this fishing culture imminent, as equipments for pulling fishing nets have already been embraced in many places. Focusing on two surviving singing-fishing communities in Cape Coast, I intend to document the songs and examine the extent to which these songs reflect the belief system, identity, cosmology, geneology and general philosophy of life of the people.