Ghana Blog Post

Our visit with Dept. of Music and Dance, University of Cape Coast, Ghana

By Dr. Patti Nijhuis

From the 23rd to the 30th of October 2022, Maria Witek and I visited The University of Cape Coast in Cape Coast, Ghana, to further the collaboration between the Witek Lab and the Department of Music and Dance. We were invited to give some workshops and meet with students to exchange knowledge in the field of music psychology and neuroscience. It was an eventful and exciting week!

We arrived very late on Sunday (2am) and so our first meeting was on Monday with Dr. Eric Otchere, the Head of Department of Music and Dance, and Dr. Francis Dzakey and Dr. Wise Wunu – two former PhD students who were co-supervised by Maria. They showed us around campus and introduced us to many faculty members, including the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the Dean of the Graduate School. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and wished us the best for our stay in Ghana. An important visit was to the International Office, where we discussed the ongoing collaboration between the University of Cape Coast and the University of Birmingham, and committed to promoting student exchange between the Witek lab in Birmingham and the Department of Music and Dance at UCC.

Beautiful place for lunch on the first day

In the evening we went to see the end-of-year Christmas performance at the Department of Music and Dance. It was a very interesting and beautifully performed fusion between an Edwardian English Christmas pageant and traditional Ghanaian music and dance. A large part of the show focused on the three kings, who represented chiefs from three Ghanaian tribes, accompanied by their own traditional dancers.

End-of-year performance by students at the Department of Music and Dance

On Wednesday, I gave a 3-hour workshop on EEG data collection and analysis in the morning, including a demonstration with the wearable EEG device Emotiv EPOC. After lunch, Maria gave a workshop on how to design cognitive (neuro)science experiments about music. The aim for both these workshops was to share our methodology and have attendants think about how to apply and adapt them to their own culturally relevant context, which led to some promising ideas for new experiments. Both workshops were very well received, and we thoroughly enjoyed providing them.

Me demonstrating how to use the EEG device Emotive EPOC

On Thursday, I joined Dr Wise Wunu and Dr. Eric Otchere for a radio interview at ATL FM, UCC’s  broadcasting centre, to talk about music psychology and music neuroscience. One of the interesting topics discussed, was the role music plays in memory and its use for education. Many of us remember nursery rhymes we learned as children, and multiplication tables are often taught as song-like rhythms, which shows that music and rhythm are great tools to help us retain information long term! You can watch the interview here.

Dr Wise Wunu, me and Dr Eric Deborah Otchere at the ATL FM studio

On Friday we visited the Centre for National Culture, where Dr. Wise Wunu runs the Music Department. There, we were treated to a folk-dance performance and workshop (from an artist-in-residence folkloric group), in which they taught us two songs with their corresponding dances. As a dancer myself, this was definitely the highlight of the trip.

CNC Folkloric performing traditional horse tail dance

Every single person we met was incredibly friendly and told us we have to come to Ghana again, and for longer than a week. I think we both wholeheartedly agree. We would like to continue the many stimulating discussions we started here. For example, we explored the possibility of studying the distribution of memory cues among choral singers and soloists in traditional Ghanaian singing, and what EEG measures might be most suitable for studying the perception of Ghanaian music. We also discussed whether concepts like groove and pleasure are meaningful measures of music in Ghana, or whether there are other concepts that are better suited to capture Ghanaian musical experiences. Overall, this trip was a wonderful experience, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.