One of the main highlights of the popular FIFA World Cup series is the moment when the competing teams have their national anthems played while the players, officials, and spectators join in either singing or standing in reverence to the musical emblem. GreenViews Apartments, a stunning residential complex in Accra, brings you the history and controversy of Ghana’s National Anthem.
Many international sporting activities have increased the awareness of the National Anthem of some countries and notable amongst them is the much anticipated Olympic Games where the first three winners would have their National Anthems played in honour of their respective nations.
Today, almost all sovereign states in the world have a national anthem of some sort because it has become very popular and no nation wants to be left behind or feel embarrassed by not having a standard National Anthem during their representation at events.
The origin of National Anthems
Some National Anthems have been around for quite a long time as local patriotic songs before being formally adopted by the respective countries. Others were also commissioned to the general public or to specific musicians to write it.
The fashion started in the early modern period when European monarchies started to adopt royal anthems, some of which survive down to this day. Most notable among them are the famous God Save the King/Queen (UK), La Marcha Real (Spain), and La Marseillaise (France). The French National Anthem was the first to be officially adopted by the Parliament of the French Revolution in 1830.
From that time, it became commonplace for nations who had just gained independence to define national anthems. In 1920, The Olympic Games introduced the playing of National anthems to celebrate gold medallists, and this became an incentive for countries that did not have an anthem to introduce one.
The pace at which nations decided to introduce national anthems accelerated when the United States of America decided to introduce their “Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931 as they were growing to become a world power. In 2021, there is hardly any country without a National Anthem.
History of Ghana’s National Anthem
Gold Coast, which later became Ghana after March 6, 1957, was being colonized by the British since 1874 and as all British colonies did, used the British National Anthem – “God Save the Queen” for all its ceremonial activities which included International events.
After officially gaining independence from the British, there was the need to create a new National Anthem as has been the fashion in those days in the quest of developing a new National identity. Therefore, the then colonial government made a national call for submission of entries of songs that would replace the British Anthem.
Many hundreds of songs were received and were shortlisted down to the best four entries by the National Anthem Selection Committee. The best four were played on Ghana’s only radio station at the time and listeners were told to vote.
Who composed Ghana’s National Anthem?
Philip Gbeho, a 53-year-old composer and music teacher emerged as the winner after his piece was overwhelmingly selected by the public. At that time, Gbeho was the Chairman of the Interim-Committee for the Arts Council of the Gold Coast.
Consequently, the National Anthem as composed by Philip Gbeho was formally adopted on 6th March 1957, which happens to be Ghana’s official Independence Day.
Later, the Prime Minister of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah afterward decreed that the Ghana National Anthem as composed by Philip Gbeho was to be played at all functions and not ‘God Save the Queen’, which would only be played when there was a Royal or high-level visit from Great Britain.
The National Anthem had the melody composed by Philip Gbeho and the lyrics composed by Emmanuel Pappoe-Thompson, with a few lines contributed by Mr. Tettey Lartey.
Incidentally, the new government led by Kwame Nkrumah instituted a literary committee to review the lyrics of the National Anthem due to reasons that were not made public. This review led to the Thompson-Lartey lyrics of the anthem being abandoned for a new set of lyrics by the literary committee.
In 1960, the year Ghana became a republic, the people voted for Nkrumah to become the President. Again, invitations went out for new lyrics to the National Anthem on November 25, 1960, and this time the criteria for selection were made known. The criteria were:
- The anthem should be dignified, simple, and easy to sing.
- The anthem should not exceed three verses in all.
- It should give expression to the patriotic sentiments of the citizens of the Republic of Ghana.
However, Nkrumah’s period of Presidency was short-lived as his government was overthrown and he had to flee for his life to Guinea where he knew he would be welcomed. Fearing for his life, he remained there until his death in 1972 in Romania after battling prostate cancer.
Successive coups occurred and power kept alternating between military and civilian rule; in all of these a new set of lyrics of the National Anthem and pledge emerged in the 70s which was promoted by the government. Many people then attributed both the lyrics and the melody of the anthem to Philip Gbeho for many years.
Controversy surrounding the Ghana National Anthem
Starting from the year 2007 when Ghana was celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Independence, someone emerged in the person of Dr. Michael Kwame Gbordzoe, who claimed to be the author of the lyrics of the National Anthem and pledge.
Dr. Gbordzoe is a Physics Professor in Germany who has published many groundbreaking works on Radiation and Biophysics. He claims to have documentary evidence that supports his claim and has sent petitions to the governments for formal recognition; however, the Ghana government is yet to respond.
When asked why he was coming out now, he said the tumultuous change of governments in the past kept him from coming out for fear of his life. He says that he left Ghana not long after submitting his entry for the anthem in pursuit of higher education and had resided in Germany all his life.
The unofficial National Anthem
Did you know that Ghana has an unofficial National Anthem? This was composed by the ethnomusicologist Ephraim Amu. It has the title “Yɛn Ara Asaase Ni” (This is our land) and it was composed in 1929.
It was one of the top four entries alongside Mr. Gbeho’s that was voted on by the public in contention for the National Anthem. It’s widely sung in many primary schools and has been translated into many of Ghana’s indigenous languages.