The life of Ephraim Kɔku Amu, the composer of ‘Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni’

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On the 13th of September, 1899 in a village called Peki-Avetile in the Volta region of Ghana, the renowned composer, Ephraim Amu was born.

Dr. Ephraim Kɔku Amu

Ephraim Amu composed many songs. The song ‘Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni’, is one of the popular songs which is performed in many national functions.

Amu was known by most Ghanaians for his use of the atentebɛn, a traditional Ghanaian bamboo flute. He promoted the instrument very well throughout the country and even composed music for the flute.

Ephraim Kɔku Amu’s parents were Mr. Stephen Amuyaa, popularly known as Papa Stefano and Mrs Sarah Akoram Ama. He was  baptized on the 22nd of October by Rev. Rudolf Mallet. When Amu was 12 years of age, he started schooling at Peki-Blengo E.P. Boarding school where he showed a great interest in music and agriculture. According to him, he enjoyed the songs his teacher, Mr. Karl Theodore Ntem, played with the organ at church during collection. Amu made a deal with his teacher. According to the deal, Amu requested to be taught how to play the organ and in return the teacher requested Amu to work on his farm on Saturdays.

In 1915, Amu was able to pass the standard 7 School Leaving Certificate examination and also the Abetifi Teachers’ Seminary’s Examination. The following year, Amu and two other colleagues had to carry their boxes on their head and walk 150 miles from Peki to a town called Abetifi where they were trained as teachers. 

Amu composed the following songs: Fare thee well, Mawɔ dɔ na Yesu, Nkwagye Dwom, Dwonto, Yetu Osa, Israel Hene, Onipa da woho so, Yaanom Abibirimma, Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni, Adawura abo me and Samansuo. Among his numerous songs, ‘Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni’ appeared as the most popular music and has become a national song. Some Ghanaians suggest that the song should be adapted as a national anthem. 

Ephraim Amu on a 20,000 Cedis banknote[2002]
For his services and contribution to the Ghanaian music industry, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Ghana. He helped in the building of the school of music in Legon. He led a group from the school in Legon to play in the Lincoln Center in New York where he received a standing ovation. 

 

Dr Ephraim Kɔku Amu died on January 2,1995. The death of the 96 year-old music veteran hit Ghana like a dark storm. He remains in the hearts of Ghanaians forever.

 

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