Undoubtedly Ghana’s greatest exponent of the religious choral music (singing band) and nationalistic anthems was Ephraim Amu. He was born in Peki in the Volta Region in 1899 and is consideredto be the father of the country’s ‘art-music tradition’ .Amu composed an
enormous number of hymns and patriotic songs in Ewe and Akan from the 1920s on. One, entitled “Yen Ara Asase Ni’ (This Land is Ours) has become, in effect, Ghana’s second national anthem. In 1933 he published his book, 25African Songs (Sheldon Press).
In 1927 he joined the staff of the Akropong Presbyterian Training College and his endeavor to “Africanize” the Church (by wearing traditional cloth on the pulpit) led to his dismissal from the Teachers Training College in 1932. This actually opened the way to a long academic career. He taught music at Achimota College for many years, where he introduced the idea of so-called Tribal Nights at the end-of-term, when students had to get out of their school uniforms and wear their indigenous clothes and play indegenous
music and dance.
In the 1950s Amu went on to teach at the university music departments in Kumasi, Winneba and Legon. At Legon he was a member of the African Music Society that promoted both traditional music and that of the guitar highlife bands of E.K. Nyame and Kwabena Onyina. From 1962 Amu became a Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies at Legon and made many field trips, recording traditional music on reel-to-reel tape. He, along with Professor Nketia, AUa Annan Mensah and others, contributed to the important collection of 600 hours of recordings of Ghanaian ethnic and popular music, folk-tales and dramas, now housed at the Institute of African Studies- Legon.
From 1965 Dr. Amu became the Head of the School of Performing Arts.
He retired in 1971 and continued, in Peki, to compose piano pieces, run a choral group and give advice to those entering the music field. He died in 1995. His daughter, Misonu, continues his university work and is based atthe Institute of African Studies.Amu is remembered as a composer, nationalist, a ‘creative musicologist’ and an avid collector and developer oftraditional Ghanaian instruments, such as the atenteben bamboo flutes. This remarkable legacy is reflected in the fact that Dr. Amu was given a State
Burial and his picture is the first of a contemporary musician ever to appear
on a Ghanaian currency note.