Brass Band Music in Ghana: History, Artistry and Social Change


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of Music and Dance


Remnants of European brass bands are widely distributed throughout Africa, India, Asia, Indonesia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. They derive from colonial bands, of both military and missionary origin, which were an important component of nineteenth and early twentieth century colonial expressive culture. The introduction of brass bands in Ghana and the subsequent "re-interpretation" or "Africanization" of the brass band style by the indigenous musicians provide a view into the complexity surrounding cultural change in the colonial context which is yet to be systematically investigated. Focusing on community bands, I intend to tell the story of brass bands in Ghana looking at the often competing influences of colonialism's inherent asymmetries: political and economic power; the aggressive strategies of Christian conversion against the tenacity of traditional expressive codes; and the ability of the indigenous people to both create and manipulate new expressive codes to their own ends.