'My spirit will always be here,' says scholar, musician and royal
May 31, 2007
By Tom Bosco
Colleagues in Athens already know him as a musician, scholar and teacher. But in his home of Ghana, Agya Boakye-Boaten is known as something else: a prince. On June 8, this tribal prince, drummer and soon-to-be professor will earn his doctorate in cultural studies and conclude six years of study at Ohio University, where he will have earned three degrees.
Born in Accra, Ghana, Boakye-Boaten is the son of the tribal chief in his town. He is treated with great respect at home and relishes his role of prince.
"It's just like being a politician, actually," says Boakye-Boaten. "People come to you for advice; people come to just shoot the breeze with you."
But Boakye-Boaten arrived in Athens in 2001 without fanfare. In fact, he arrived without much of anything, save for his drum. Boakye-Boaten recalls sitting in front of Scott Quad shortly after his arrival with his suitcase and his drum, trying to acclimate to his new surroundings. That's when a former high school teacher of his from Ghana walked past and recognized him.
"He said, 'What are you doing here?' I said, 'I haven't got a clue,'" recalls Boakye-Boaten, who chose Ohio University for graduate study based on an alumnus' recommendation.
The teacher, who also was studying at the university, took Boakye-Boaten in, put him up for a couple of days and helped him get an apartment. From there, Boakye-Boaten dove into his studies.
Boakye-Boaten will earn his doctorate in cultural studies at the June 8 graduate commencement ceremony. He earned master's degrees in international affairs and political science in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
One thing Boakye-Boaten brought with him from Ghana was his love of drumming. He is considered a "divine drummer" at home -- someone able to communicate with the spirits through drumming. He says divine drummers can play for more than 12 hours nonstop, going into trance-like states.
"It's just the ability to get out of yourself, get into something very different, something very supernatural," he explains.
He made that love of drumming part of his study, working with professors in the schools of Music and Dance. He taught a drumming class and workshops using the drum as a tool to bridge cultural gaps.
Boakye-Boaten's mother will travel from Ghana for commencement. He expects the ceremony to be full of emotion as he prepares to say good-bye to Athens.
"It will be emotional," he says, "but it will also be that I have accomplished what I set out to accomplish."
Boakye-Boaten will begin a new adventure this fall, becoming an assistant professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. But he says Athens will always be with him.
"I always refer to the Hocking River as a god," he says. "If you cross the Hocking River, you cannot get it out of you. It follows you wherever you go."