Bedsides football, music is perhaps one of the most loved things in Ghana yet considered to be the most trivial when it comes to education or career choices. Furthermore, urban life has destroyed opportunities for practical involvement in music as DJs and CD players have overtaken the traditional musical focus of communities.
Anyone who has read about Venezuela’s El Sistema (the System), a nationwide organisation of 102 youth orchestras, 55 children’s orchestras, and 270 music centres and 250,000 young musicians, cannot fail to be impressed.
Venezuela is in a far worse state than Ghana, yet, through the vision of its leaders (and I’m not referring to the government primarily), their orchestras and musicians have gained world-wide fame and provided careers for their youth, many of whom stemmed from the poorest areas of the country.
The study of music can develop the child’s use of IT, an understanding of historical and philosophical movements, as well as listening and analytical skills.
Group music making develops inner discipline, emotional wholeness, teamwork and a way of expressing feelings that words fail to do. It fosters respect for others, self-esteem and sensitivity, all vital for a caring society.
Much of the problem stems from a utilitarian view of education which puts status or a ‘good’ job above the satisfaction of doing something we feel passionately about. In the UK, we watched African parents pull their talented kids out of our music and drama courses in order to undertake the drudgery of a life in accountancy! Wealth is seen only in material terms.
This approach neglects the fact that education is also about the overall development of the child including their emotional and physiological development; areas which music has a unique ability to develop.
I have the impression that music in Ghanaian schools focuses on the transmission of culture and as a tool for religious instruction. Whilst passing on cultural values is important, examining music of other cultures provides one with an awareness of the uniqueness of one’s own culture.
Like the teaching of English which does not aim to create novelists, classroom music should not aim to create musicians but should use a range of activities, such as playing, singing, listening and composing in order to create a broad understanding of different musical genres.
Music does not have to justify itself by being a vehicle to transmit something non-musical. Music’s justification is itself.
We need to see beyond mere wealth creation and understand that the development of a nation may not be possible without nurturing its spiritual and emotional development.