Historical and cultural contexts of folk opera development and impact in Ghana

Dr Moses Nii-Dortey - Institute of African Studies - University of Ghana -Research Fellow and Lecturer

Part of the Music Research Colloquia series of events


Folk opera, arguably one of Ghana’s most successful musical art form, was invented by Saka Acquaye (1923- 2007) in response to Kwame Nkrumah’s Cultural Renaissance and nation building agenda. Between 1960 and the late 1980s when the first and last of his 10 operas were written and performed, a number of Saka Acquaye’s operas, including the most popular ‘the lost fishermen’ and ‘sasabonsam,’ flourished and functioned as Ghana’s (unofficial) cultural icons as they toured much of the world. What is folk opera, and what aesthetic, social and political factors precipitated its evolution, popularity and high impact on Ghana’s post-independence socio-cultural landscape? The discussion will address these questions with audio/visual illustrations from Saka Acquaye’s ‘the lost fishermen,’ where necessary.


Dr Moses Nii-Dortey is a Research Fellow and lecturer at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. He was an African Presidential Fellow, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2009), and African Humanities Programme (AHP) Doctoral Fellow at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2011–2012). Nii-Dortey has published on the histories of Ghanaian Folk Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra, and traditional festivals.

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