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Julie Hunter and the Beat of A Different Drum

Cultural taboos have long kept Ghanaian women away from drumming. But two significant political movements began to break down those barriers in the last 60 years, bringing women into the musical fold. It is that shift — and its political, social, and cultural implications — that Julie Hunter studied to earn her Ph.D. this spring.

Drumming has always been an important part of Ghanaian culture. Long a genre reserved for ceremonial occasions, drumming became increasingly secularized after the Gold Coast claimed independence in 1957. That postcolonial period, followed by a national women’s movement in the 1980s made the culture ripe for political and social change. In this climate, drumming, once strictly reserved for men, has been adopted by women, marking a significant shift in gender roles within Ghanaian culture. It is this shift that Julie Hunter studied to write her thesis, “The Rise of Women’s Drumming in Africa: Performing Gender and Transforming Community in Southeastern Ghana.” Hunter will earn her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology this spring. (more…)

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