“Exciting Moments” [“Tomato Calypso,” performed by the Tempos]. Sunday Mirror, Accra, Ghana. August 30, 1953, p. 9.

Documenting Ghanaian Social Change through the Music Scene

“Having access to such a large collection of major and specialized newspapers allowed me to learn about the ways that Ghanaians engaged with music…”

Alison K. Okuda’s doctoral dissertation for New York University, Caribbean and African Exchanges: The Post-Colonial Transformation of Ghanaian Music, Identity, and Social Structure, re-examined popular conceptions of pan-Africanism by exploring connections between the music scenes in London and Ghana. Okuda discovered a reverse “Triangle Trade”: women and men from Anglophone Caribbean countries migrating to London, and then sometimes to Accra, Ghana (as well as from Ghana to London). “Rather than trading people and products, they were trading ideas and music,” Okuda notes. The height of movement was the 1950s up to 1962, after which the Commonwealth Immigrants Act restricted emigration to the U.K.

A faculty advisor introduced Okuda to CRL’s rich collection of African newspapers. These allowed her to explore the transformation of post-colonial Ghana during the process of nation building. “Social change through the music scene . . . is an area not readily found in government documents. Having access to such a large collection of major and specialized newspapers allowed me to learn about the ways that Ghanaians engaged with music, the African diaspora, and politics,” Okuda says.

Among the variety of resources at CRL collected by the Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP), Okuda found newspapers including The Ghana Evening News, Ghana Times, Weekly Spectator and Sunday Spectator, Talking Drums, and Daily Mail. She also consulted archival materials from the Ivor Wilks-Phyllis Ferguson Collection of Material on Ghana (1950–1960), and departmental reports relating to the Gold Coast and British Togoland. Okuda notes that primary source materials held by CRL “really made my research more efficient, as I was able to access several collections of archives from my campus, and could use my time in the field to read other documents and interview people.”

Feb 2017