Former professor, high priest present Ghanaian culture

Barry Bilderback (left) laughs after missing a beat while perfoming with guest Hunor Gatukpe Dogah on March 12. Megan Myer/Online editor

Barry Bilderback (left) laughs after missing a beat while perfoming with guest Hunor Gatukpe Dogah on March 12. Megan Myer/Online editor

Students, faculty, community members and alumni gathered in the Delkin Recital Hall on March 12 for a presentation on Ghanaian Ewe religious music and ceremonies by former Linfield professor Barry Bilderback and his Ghanaian friend, Hunor Gatukpe Dogah.

Dogah is the high priest, healer and master drummer of Kpeve Village in the Volta Region of Ghana. It is a position generally held by men two generations older than Dogah. The trip was his first one to the United States.

The presentation, “Ghanaian Ewe Music, Culture and Cosmology,”documented Bilderback’s various journeys to Ghana with his students, placing a heavy emphasis on the importance of using Westernization as a means of preserving musical and cultural tradition.

“It is important to collect, document, digitize and preserve vulnerable music traditions that face imminent extinction,” Bilderback said, quoting Komla Amoaku, founder and director of the Institute for Music and Development in Ghana.

Bilderback said that he became interested in Ghana partly because of his acquaintance with Amoaku and retired Linfield music professor Larry Marsh.

“Ghana is an Anglophone country, too, so there was no need to spend a lot of time learning another language,” he said.

Bilderback showed fieldwork footage of the Ewe Vodou ceremony, explaining its three stages, the significance of the dances and actions, the meanings of the colors worn by the dancers and the role of the many percussionists.

“I was first interested in Ghana because of its major influence in jazz, but I soon came to appreciate Ghanaian music for itself,” he said. “I appreciate the joy of the people. They’re living in such harsh conditions, but they have such a joyful spirit.”

Bilderback invited audience members to ask questions about anything the lecture had covered.

“We are, after all, working in bringing awareness to cultural exchange,” Bilderback said.

After questions from the audience, he and Dogah brought out their drums and began to play, demonstrating traditional Ghanaian rhythms. Bilderback invited audience members who had experience with percussive instruments to join them.

After the demonstration, audience members were invited to talk with Bilderback and take pictures with Dogah.
Bilderback is an assistant professor of music history and ethnomusicology at the University of Idaho. He graduated from the University of Idaho, Lionel Hampton School of Music before he served as an adjunct professor at Linfield from 2001 to 2008. In January 2007, Bilderback led a group of Linfield students to Ghana.

Sharon Gollery/For the Review
Sharon Gollery can be reached at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.