Michael Frishkopf, Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, believes that music is one of the most powerful contributors to global human development and positive social change. His new Ghana Summer Study Program, set to launch in July 2017, is seeking to understand and celebrate this relationship.
“So many problems afflicting our societies — the vast majority, I would say — are actually self-inflicted, resulting from disconnection and dehumanization,” says Frishkopf. “Music, construed broadly to include dance and drama, brings about human development in a particularly human way by reshaping social connections and re-humanizing transformations to attitudes and behaviours.”
The Ghana Summer Program builds on an earlier study abroad program developed by Frishkopf called West African Music, Dance, Society and Culture, and while it retains the nine credit structure (and the music!), the focus has been refreshed. Retitled, the program will now be centered at the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale, capital of Ghana’s northern region, and will, according to Frishkopf, emphasize music as a form of “participatory action research” towards positive social change.
Comprised of three component courses: African Music and Dance Practices, African Development Studies (classroom and in situ), and Topics in Ethnomusicology: music for global human development, the six-week program will be both immersive and collaborative.
And yes, Frishkopf notes, there will be elephants! Interspersed through the program will be excursions to surrounding villages and historic areas of Northern Ghana, including Mole National Park, Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge.
But mostly, says Frishkopf, it’s about the music. “In Ghana, as in other parts of West Africa, music is traditionally highly participatory, deeply interwoven with daily life. It’s not performance so much as simply living!”
A key area of focus will be a partnership with the Youth Home Cultural Group, “a wonderfully dynamic” dancing and drumming, arts-based NGO in Tamale. Through their work with this group, students will develop a sense of cultural connection, and will acquire the traditional music and dance skills that they will bring to their work with the local communities. As a result, students in the Ghana Summer Program will receive credit toward both the Certificate in International Learning and the Certificate in Community Service-Learning (CSL).
“In Ghana, as in other parts of West Africa, music is traditionally highly participatory, deeply interwoven with daily life. It’s not performance so much as simply living!”
While proficiency in music is not a requirement, an interest in music, dance, development, African studies, religious studies, health or other related areas is assumed — as is the willingness to
learn. “It’s 24/7,” he says, adding that study abroad programs such as this can be transformative, in part because of the unexpected and serendipitous moments that happen outside of the classroom. The course is so focused on community participation, in fact, that Frishkopf jokingly refers to it as “experiential learning on steroids.”
In 2014, Frishkopf was honoured with the official title of Maligu Naa of Tolon, or “Chief of Development” in recognition of his efforts in making global connections to further regional development. He says that the Ghana Summer Study Program is a realization of that role.
“I feel certain that the interactions stirred by this program – for all participants, including students, faculty, artists, and communities – have the potential to make a lasting difference. Music provides a path towards global human development, but equally it is a path towards development of the ‘global human’.”
NOTE: Scholarships of $1750 are available for the first 14 UAlberta students who register for the Ghana Summer Study Program. Registration deadline: March 31, 2017.