“O’er Heathen Lands Afar”: Missionary Hymnody, Ephraim Amu’s Musings and Christianity as a Non-Western Endeavor
This lecture interrogates the interface between Ephraim Amu’s Christian thought as outlined in his music and the mission theology of Western hymns that often sought to portray Africa as a demonized geographical context needing to be evangelized through the preaching of the gospel.
The late Ephraim Amu was arguably Africa’s most accomplished ethnomusicologist of the 20th century. The three most distinguishing marks of Amu’s life and career were his commitment to the Christian faith, his passion for culture, and the patriotic orientation of his music. He was an African Christian ethnomusicologist. Although he lived in Africa, Amu was in every sense a missionary to European thoughts about the continent in his own right and this was something that was evident through both his lifestyle and music.
Ephraim Amu’s music brought together African Christian theology and culture in a very innovative way and Philip T. Laryea has served us well by interrogating the Christian heritage in Amu’s works. It must not be lost on us that Amu’s thoughts, life, and music also constituted musings that challenged the Western theological paradigm as expressed in the life of the church in Africa. The lecture argues that Amu’s heritage clearly indicates that there was something ironic about Africans singing hymns that sought to portray their own continent as a dark one and all this at a time when the Christian faith itself had started declining in the global north and rising in the global south.
J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu FGA. PhD
Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana