• Eric Debrah Otchere University of Cape Coast



Music, identity, memory, migration, fishermen songs, Anlo, Ewe, Fante


The musical traditions of the southern Ewe of Ghana; particularly the Anlo, have been subject to a substantial amount of research. Existing research has focused on Anlo musical traditions as practiced in its original context. Comparably little is known about these musical traditions as performed by Anlo migrants living and working among a linguistically and culturally different ethnic group. Furthermore, fishing songs of the Anlo, even at home, have escaped most academic research. In this article, I address both shortcomings by focusing on Anlo fishing songs as performed by a migrant Anlo community living among the Fante in Cape Coast. Employing a variety of qualitative research techniques such as in-depth interviews, participant observation and a two-way inter-subjectivity, I explore the extent to which these fishing songs serve purposes beyond their perceived role of accompanying and easing work. Specifically, I examine how the fishing songs of the migrant Ewe community provide a solid basis for negotiating individual and collective memories and identities.


Addo, Christian. 2014. “Singing in Fishing: a Culturally-Centred Exploration of the Meanings and Functions of Singing to Sailors.” MA Thesis: Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim.

Agawu, Kofi V. 2003. Representing African Music. New York and London: Routledge.

Agawu, Kofi V. 2016. The African Imagination in Music. Canada: Oxford University Press.

Agbodeka, Francis, ed. 1997. A Handbook of Eweland, Vol. 1: The Ewes of Southern Ghana. Accra: Woeli Publishing Services.

Ahiawodzi, Anthony K. 1997. “Economic Activities.” in A handbook of Eweland: The Ewes of south-eastern Ghana. Francis Agbodeka, ed. 250–280. Accra: Woeli Publishing services.

Akrofi, Eric A and Nicholas Kofie. 2007. “The Role of Music in Preserving the Cultural Identity of a Migrant Community: A Case Study of Duakor fishermen.” in Music and Identity: Transformation and Negotiation. Eric A. Akrofi, Smit Maria and Stig-Magnus Thorsen, eds. 86–98. Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch University Press.

Amoaku, Komla W. 1975. “Symbolism in Traditional Institutions and Music of the Ewe of Ghana.” PhD Dissertation: University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Anku, Willie. 2009. “Drumming Among the Akan and Anlo Ewe of Ghana: An Introduction.” African Music 8(3): 38–64.
Avorgbedor, Daniel K. 2001. “Competition and Conflict as a Framework for Understanding Performance Culture Among the Urban Anlo-Ewe.” Ethnomusicology 45(2): 260–282.

Baily, John and Michael Collyer. 2006. “Introduction: Music and Migration.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 32(2): 167–182.

Bohlman, Philip V. 2011. “When Migration Ends, When Music Ceases.” Music and Arts in Action 3(3): 148–165.
Dor, George. 2004. “Communal Creativity and Song Ownership in Anlo Ewe Musical Practice: The Case of Havolu.” Ethnomusicology 48(1): 26–51.

Fiagbedzi, Nissio. 1997. “Music, Dance and Drama”. in A Handbook of Eweland: The Ewes of south-eastern Ghana. Francis Agbodeka, ed. 153–176. Accra: Woeli Publishing services.

Fiagbedzi, Nissio. 2009. Form and Meaning in Ewe Song: A Critical Review. Point Richmond: MRI Press. Frith, Simon 1996 “Music and Identity.” in Questions of Cultural Identity. Stuart Hall and Paul Du Gay, eds. 108–127. London: Sage Publications.

Gbolonyo, Justice S. K. 2005. “Want the History? Listen to the Music! Historical Evidence in Anlo Musical Practices: A Case Study of Traditional Song Texts.” MA Thesis: University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Gunderson, Frank. 2010. Sukuma Labor Songs from Western Tanzania. ’We Never Sleep, We Dream of Farming’. Brill. Netherlands.

Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi. 2013. “Lest We Forget-1983-Thirty Years Ago”. Feature Article, Ghanaweb. [Accessed 15 June 2017].

Juslin, Patrick N. and Västfjäll, Daniel. 2008a. “Emotional Responses to Music: The Need to Consider Underlying Mechanisms.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31: 559–575.

Ladzekpo, Kobla. 1971. “The Social Mechanics of Good Music: A Description of Dance Clubs among the Anlo Ewe Speaking People of Ghana.” African Music 5(1): 6–22.

Lomax, Alan. 1959. “Folk Song Style.” American Anthropologist 61(6): 927–54.

Marquette, Catherine M., Kwame A. Koranteng, Ragnhild Overå and Ellen B. Aryeetey. 2002. “Small-scale Fisheries, Population Dynamics, and Resource Use in Africa: The Case of Moree, Ghana.” A journal of Human Environment 31 (4): 324–336.

Mensah, John V and Barima K. Antwi. 2002. “Problems of Artisanal Marine Fishermen in Ghana: The Way Ahead.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 23(2): 217–235.

Nunoo, Richard B. 1974. “Canoe Decoration in Ghana.” African Arts 7(3): 32–35.

Ofori-Atta, Prince. 2013. “1983 A Year Ghana Would Prefer to Forget”. Feature article, African Globe. [Accessed 15 June 2017].

Pantaleoni, Hewitt. 1972 “Three Principles of Timing in Anlo Dance Drumming.” African Music 5: 50–63.

Porter, Gerald. 1992. “The English Occupational Song.” PhD Dissertation: Acta Universitatis Umensis, Sweden.
Ruud, Even. 1997. “Music and Identity.” Nordisk Tidsskrift for Musikkterapi 6(1): 3–13.

Silver, Daniel, Monica Lee and Clayton Childress. 2016. “Genre Complexes in Popular Music.” PLoS ONE 11 (5): e0155471.

Vercruijsse, Emile. 1979. “Class Formation in the Peasant Economy of Southern Ghana”. Review of African Political Economy 15(16): 93–104.

Younge, Pascal Y. 2011. Music and Dance Traditions of Ghana: History, Performance and Teaching. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.




How to Cite

Otchere, Eric Debrah. 2017. “IN A WORLD OF THEIR OWN: MEMORY AND IDENTITY IN THE FISHING SONGS OF A MIGRANT EWE COMMUNITY IN GHANA”. African Music : Journal of the International Library of African Music 10 (3):7-22.