Cloud of colonialism hangs over Queen Elizabeth’s legacy in Africa
The new national anthem of Ghana is being written in English by Ghanaian composers, but its music is also the product of a century of imperial rule that has left its mark on this small country.
Africans have long complained that the global reach of British colonial power has warped and perverted black music, transforming the melodies and rhythms of Africa’s most popular music into a form alien to the languages and cultures that produce it.
The British colonial authorities brought with them a musical lexicon and grammar that have pervaded the local vernacular, creating a musical space where African folk music and African-American blues music could co-exist, even exchange musical influences, in a manner that has made possible popular African-themed music in a country where the most popular music in the world is American rock, which has been sung in West Africa by some of the continent’s most celebrated singers.
On Monday, when the new national anthem was being sung in Accra, it was an Anglican church where traditional music was performed where the first African-inspired music was being sung. The choir consisted entirely of Ghanaian singers and composers, whose songs are being recorded by British record companies, and the choir consisted of mostly members of the Anglican Church, a church founded by settlers from Britain’s West African colonies, and members of the church are now singing the national anthem and other hymns in the Anglican church in Accra.
The Anglo-Saxon music of the British empire has shaped Ghanaian music for the last 100 years, from the church music of St. Paul’s and St. Thomas churches of London to the hymns sung in Ghanaian churches across the country.
“I think they (British) are more familiar with English hymns than they are with African ones,” said the minister of the Anglican church in Accra, who only asked not to be named for fear of angering the British government.
He added that the church’s choir had long sung hymns in