Book Review: Augustine Kwasiga Younge in retrospect

by • July 24, 2022 • FeaturedArticle, NewsComments (0)221

By John Owoo

(In Accra – Ghana)

A 325-page book written by Prof. Paschal Yao Younge that tackle the life and work of Augustine Kwasiga Younge was recently launched in several venues in the Greater Accra and Volta regions of Ghana.

Divided in various sections including “Life Stories”, “Musical Career”, “Revitalization and Africanization of Liturgy and Mass”, “Compositions and Creative Works”, “Creative Contemporaries”, Family Stories”, “Family and Professional Intersections”, the book delves into Kwasiga Younge’s introduction of traditional tunes into the Catholic mass among others.

Written in simple language, the book details his persistence in this direction and how he moved on with his plan by effectively replacing Latin hymns through a vigorous infusion of Ghanaian culture into the church despite stiff opposition from people who saw this laudable move as a retrograde step.

The late Kwasiga Younge was without doubt an inexhaustible composer, who has been credited with over one thousand tunes by the writer, who happens to be his last child. A rather dramatic feature in the book is how he and the late Phillip Gbeho (composer of Ghana’s National Anthem) studied how to read and write Western classical music notations on cutlasses in the early 1950s.   

Undeniably, one can safely attribute the wide use of traditional Ghanaian musical instruments in Catholic and other churches to the efforts of Kwasiga Younge, who worked tirelessly for this idea while composing dozens of tunes, which range from Liturgy and Mass, Anthems and Songs, Funeral Hymns, re-workings of Latin, English and German Hymns and Action / Game songs.

Published by DApkabli and Associates, it equally captures his contemporaries – whose contributions to the development of music during the period cannot be under-estimated – these include Adalbert Kodjo Mensah Tibu, Philip Gbeho, Emmanuel Gakpo Gadzekpo, Togbe Afiatsoa II, George Kwame Akordor, E.Y. Egblewogbe and Cornelius Kofi Doe-Williams, who was popular known as C.K.

Outside the annals of music, he was also involved in the Ghana Boy Scouts and played a boundless role in the flourishing of the association until it began to weaken in the face of competition from the Young Pioneers Movement. Nevertheless, he stayed loyal to the course of the association throughout its challenging times and eventual resurrection in the late 1960’s.

Kwasiga Younge married Catherine Afiwor Kassah-Younge in 1935 and they were blessed with six children. Equally musically inclined, Madame Younge was highly active the music scene and actually formed and directed a number of music groups.

Currently based at the University of Ohio (USA), Prof. Younge is a specialist in African choral and brass band music, a clinician in other sub-Saharan African musical arts / world percussion and an advocate of intercultural, interdisciplinary and multicultural music.

He has presented and performed at several festivals, concerts and conferences in over twenty-five countries and several parts of the United States and Canada. Younge also taught at West Virginia University (USA), where he served as Director of the World Music Center.

A 2020 Ohio Heritage Fellowship Awardee and Carnegie African Diaspora Fellow, he was also a Principal Music Instructor and director of several ensembles, including brass bands, choirs and other instrumental groups at the University of Ghana (Legon).

Augustine Kwasiga Younge died peacefully in December 2002 at a ripe age of 100. May his soul rest in peace.

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