Music Research Institute

In Memoriam

  *Professor Willie Anku (Ghana) b. July 25, 1949 d. February 1, 2010

Willie Anku passed away after a motor traffic accident on January 20, 2010. He is survived by his wife Madam Eva Ebeli (Lecturer in Music, University of Education, Winneba, Ghana); children Shirley Anku (Dallas, Texas, US); Kiki Anku (London, UK); and Dela Anku (Accra, Ghana); and siblings: Mr. Seth Anku; Mrs. Joan Anku-Mensah; Mr. Fred Anku; and Mrs. Victoria Lily Anku-Adjabeng.

Professor Anku received his PhD and MA (Ethnomusicology) from the University of Pittsburgh (1988, 1986) and MME (Music Education) from the University of Montana, Missoula (1976). He was most recently associate professor and the immediate past director of the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana. He was also head of the Music Department at the same institution (1997-2003);visiting professor at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC (2002), Portland State University in 2003 and California State University, San Marcos (1994-1997) and made yearly summer session visits since 1998. 

His research focused on the acquisition of reliable digitally aided transcriptions of African Music, which are analyzed, systematized and presented as rules of procedure for composition, analysis and better performance interpretation. His research was concerned with structural elements, and attempts to identify distinguishing features of rhythm in African music for the purpose of devising an efficient analytical framework and ultimately a theory of African rhythmic structure. 

A prolific writer he contributed to a number of journals and book chapters. I was privileged to co-edit with Professor Akin Euba his seminal essay "Towards a Cross-Cultural Theory of Rhythm in African Drumming" for the inaugural issue of Intercultural Music Volume 1 published by the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts (CIMA), U.K. and Bayreuth African Studies, Bayreuth, Germany (1995). Just this past October 2009, he presented a paper at UCLA for the 3rd International Symposium and Festival Dialogue in Music Project: Africa Meets North America titled “How Much Can Two Singings Differ And Still be Singings of The Same Tune”. His abstract reads:

In the performance of blues, the blues structure is of essence in maintaining structural identity and form, even where there are versions and variations of the same performance. African drumming on the other hand appears to be structurally volatile and irrational in terms of its overall form structure, particularly where different master drummers perform what might be considered the same musical type. This paper demonstrates generative processes for establishing a schema in African drumming where there appears to be none. It highlights a system of performance mapping—a useful paradigm for facilitating performance analysis and large-scale compositional structure.

He was a member of the production team and music director for the Ghana 2008 African Cup soccer tournament opening ceremony and in 2009, African Hockey Federation, Hockey African Cup for Nations, opening ceremony in Accra, Ghana also as music director. He composed the theme song for Ghana 2008 and had a number of other compositions to his credit. He operated a home recording studio in Accra, Ghana.

Willie was much loved and respected by his family, friends, and colleagues at home and worldwide. He was quiet and unassuming, possessing an introspective demeanor that was both thoughtful and persuasive, but he also exuded confidence in his beliefs. He was mentor to many many individuals, and was a consummate professional in every endeavor he undertook, so much so, that the ideas and innovative concepts he advocated in his academic work will continue through the work of current and future generations of scholars. We will miss him dearly— his look of joyful recognition when he saw someone he had not seen in awhile, his smile, and his bountiful and beautiful bon mots.

Arrangements for his funeral will take place as follows: April 28, 2010 for a Night of Tributes and Songs at the School of Performing Arts, Legon, Accra. On May 1, 2010 a funeral service and burial will take place at Gbadzeme-Avatime, Volta Region, Ghana.

Cynthia Tse Kimberlin
Point Richmond, California USA

Note:  Information about family members, tribute and funeral arrangements was provided by Fred Anku.  The source for his academic career, research focus, and extracurricular activities was provided by Willie Anku for inclusion in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology program booklet / Dialogue in Music Project:  Africa Meets North America 3rd International Symposium and Festival, October 22-25, 2009/ (p. 27).


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