Kofi Agawu was born in Ghana, where he received his initial education before studying composition and analysis in the UK and musicology in the US. He has taught at Haverford College, King’s College London, Cornell, Yale and Harvard; held visiting positions at the University of Hong Kong, Indiana University, University of Toronto, the University of Pavia, Cremona, and Oxford University; and lectured at numerous universities and conferences around the world. In 2012-13, he was appointed George Eastman Visiting Professor at Oxford University, becoming only the second music scholar to have held that position since its endowment in 1930. He has served on the editorial boards of leading journals in musicology, music theory, African music and ethnomusicology, and on several fellowship panels.
Agawu’s work is widely discussed and frequently cited for its interrogative quality. Tony Lewis remarks on Agawu’s role in “recasting African music as a musicological rather than ethnomusicological topic”; Veit Erlmann wrote that Representing African Music (2003) is “without any doubt the most powerful intervention in African musicology in a decade or more . . . one of the most edgy and stylish pieces of writing on the politics of culture in postcolonial Africa to have appeared of late”; and Music as Discourse (2008) elicited the following from Raymond Monelle: “The painstaking clarity of the analyses will surely be imitated by a generation of bright students . . . radical and challenging . . . easy to absorb yet infinitely sophisticated . . . elegant and rich . . . needs to be lived with and digested.”
Agawu’s current research includes essays on rhythm and iconicity in African music, and further studies in topic theory.
B.A. Reading University
M.Mus. King’s College London
PhD Stanford University
Recognition & Awards
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), honoris causa (Stellenbosch University, 2017); Extraordinary Professor, Stellenbosch University (2016-19); Corresponding Fellow, The British Academy (2010-); Fellow, The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000); Guggenheim Fellowship (1990); Dent Medal (1992); Society for Music Theory, Young Scholar Award (1994); Music Theorist in Residence, Dutch-Flemish Music Theory Society (2008-09); Frank Llewellyn Harrison Medal (2009); Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities, Princeton University (2011); George Eastman Visiting Professor, Oxford University (2012-13).