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Want the History? Listen to the Music! Historical Evidence in Anlo Ewe Musical Practices: A Case Study of Traditional Song Texts

Gbolonyo, Justice Stephen Kofi (2005) Want the History? Listen to the Music! Historical Evidence in Anlo Ewe Musical Practices: A Case Study of Traditional Song Texts. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study is in response to the need to examine aspects and functions of Ewe traditional music not commonly touched upon and contribute to historical documentation and education through the authority and memory embedded in songs. Ethnomusicological studies of Anlo Ewe traditional music have typically focused on drumming and rhythm. Some attention to song texts, for example would have challenged assertions that Africans have no history, based on assumptions that there are no historical documents. These notions prevailed primarily because the scholars' definitions of historical evidence were limited to written documents. Nevertheless, other researchers have asserted that the organization of every traditional society is based on attitudes that incorporate its myths, legends, history, and arts. In literate societies, these attitudes are mostly preserved in written literature while the non-literate ones do so orally and thereby regard their oral tradition as the basis or roots of their attitudes. In this thesis, I assert that Anlo Ewe, like most African societies, used and relied extensively on music as a powerful tool in aid of memory, means of documentation and repository of historical events. Based on the new social historical theory and approach—that tries to reconstruct the past from the records of ordinary lives—I examine narratives of three Anlo historical epochs (Notsie narratives and migration, settlement and evolution of Anlo and Euro-colonial encounter) in song texts and musical practices. I analyze both the explicit and implicit evidences in relation to available historical sources and discuss musical and linguistic variations and changes that occurred in time and space. Chapter one is concerned with the definition and discussion of the scope and aim of the study, as well as the theoretical and methodological approaches. I then take an overview of the ethnography and musical tradition of Anlo Ewe with emphasis on the various musical taxonomies, historical periods and the role of the master musician in chapter two. Chapters Three and Four focus on historical evidence in blemavuwo and ametsitsivuwo respectively. Chapter five concludes the discussion with analysis of musical characteristics of the songs, linguistic considerations as well as some scholarly thoughts and implications.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gbolonyo, Justice Stephen
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairEuba, Akinaeuba@pitt.eduAEUBA
Committee MemberAdjaye, Josephjadjaye@pitt.eduJADJAYE
Committee MemberLewis, Marylsm@pitt.eduLSM
Committee MemberDavis, Nathanndavis@pitt.eduNDAVIS
Date: 7 June 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 5 April 2005
Approval Date: 7 June 2005
Submission Date: 13 April 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: African Music and History; Folk Songs; Military and Social Culture; Notsie Narratives and Migration; Oral Tradition; Religious; Volta Region (Ghana); European Encounter and Slavery; Ewe (African people)
Other ID:, etd-04132005-222944
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:36
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:40


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