Elabena ale gbegbe Mawu lo xexeame bena woatso yeto hena Tenuvi bena amesiame si xoa sena la, mele tsotso ge o, ke bon woakpo agbe mavo.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
—John 3:16 NRSV
LOOK: Untitled (1985) by Keith Haring
Keith Haring was an American pop artist who died of AIDS at age thirty-one. I featured him on the blog last year, particularly his connection to the Jesus People movement.
LISTEN: “Alegbegbe” (For God So Loved the World) by Ephraim Amu, 1958 | Text: John 3:16 in Ewe | Performed by the Harmonious Chorale Ghana and the Ghana National Symphony Orchestra, 2019
“Alegbegbe Mawu Lɔ̃ Xexeame” (or “Alegbegbe” for short) is a choral setting of the scriptural passage John 3:16 composed by Dr. Ephraim Amu, one of the leading composers of Ghanaian art music. As do many of his works from the 1950s onward, this composition uses a technique called counterpoint—that is, the sounding of independent melodies simultaneously in different vocal lines, which are nevertheless integrated into a single harmonic texture. The words are in the Ewe language (pronounced ā-wā, with long a’s as in way), spoken in the Volta region of Ghana as well as in southwestern Togo and parts of Benin.
I’ve chosen a recent performance that was captured on video, but for an audio-only performance by the West Volta Presbytery Church Choir, conducted by Amu’s daughter, Misonu Amu, click here.
Dr. Paul Neeley of Global Christian Worship writes, “Dr. Ephraim Kɔku Amu (1899–1995) was a Ghanaian composer, musicologist, and teacher. He was a pioneer in contextualizing life and Christian faith in the African context, starting in the 1920s. He was not afraid to rock the boat of cultural and church norms of the time. He composed hundreds of songs, many of them choral songs in the major languages of Ewe and Twi, and some are still popular today.”
I found a multitude of articles about Amu on JSTOR—most of them quite technical—and I hope to explore his corpus more fully in the future.