Campaign Songs and Political Advertising in Ghana: Analyzing the Use of Biblical Imagery, Testimonials, and Repetitions

Campaign Songs and Political Advertising in Ghana: Analyzing the Use of Biblical Imagery, Testimonials, and Repetitions

Margaret Ivy Amoakohene (University of Ghana, Ghana), Gilbert K. M. Tietaah (University of Ghana, Ghana), Favour Esinam Normeshie (Wisconsin International University College, Ghana) and Fidelis Yayra Sesenu (University of Ghana, Ghana)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7295-4.ch006


As persuasive tools for political campaigns, songs and music are integral features of electioneering in Africa. Since Ghana's return to multiparty democracy in 1992, election cycles in the country have been heralded and accentuated by campaign songs which extol the virtues of their sponsors and/or denigrate the achievements and their suitability for political office. This chapter examines the use of repetitions, testimonials, and biblical imagery in campaign songs of two major political parties in Ghana—the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC)—during the 2012 and 2016 elections. Eight campaign songs were analyzed. The findings show that the songs sought to communicate messages/themes of submissiveness/humility, divine choice/prophecy, achievers/achievement, and opponents as failures/deceivers about the political parties and their candidates.
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There is a veritable connection between songs or music and the political process in Africa. The lyrics of songs have been known to help or hurt the political fortunes of candidates and parties; by either extolling the virtues of the candidate and the sponsoring party, or by denigrating the achievements of their opponents, and questioning their suitability for office.

In Ghana, politically charged songs are aimed at both rational and relational resonance with audiences, as they have been favored tools for conveying political views and canvassing for electoral votes. According to Agovi (1989), during the struggle for independence, popular tunes were created and aired in order to engender a sense of “…euphoria, confidence, and a commitment to the nationalist struggle” (p. 196). Some of these songs were based on already existing euphonic tunes to which people attached new meanings; others were specifically composed for the campaign for liberation from colonial rule.

In the particular context of electoral politics, Gullickson (2007) conceptualizes campaign songs as specifically written for campaigns by or for candidates for elections or parties, for the purpose of swaying voters. These songs are meant to persuade individuals by influencing their assumptions and attitudes, and inclining their preferences and practices in favor of the sponsoring party or candidate (Gullickson, 2007). To that extent, songs become not just cultural constructs; they are also a tonal chord by which campaigns seek to affect the tenor of political sentiment, and from which one might gain insights into the prevailing political valence.

Gullickson (2007) and Chilton (2004) aver that campaign songs usually focus on the personality of politicians as crucial determinants of voter choices. Thus, campaign songs serve as avenues for communicating the character and competence of politicians to the masses. Ntiba (2015) found that campaign songs used among the Chuka people of Kenya were aimed at building the political stature of, and boosting public support for, the preferred candidate while at the same time dumbing down the credentials of the rival candidate. This focus on praising the personality of the candidate is akin to the amoma (vocatives of deference) performance in the political communication of the Akan ethnic group in Ghana in which any public address by the chief is heralded by the lyrical recitation of appellations and vocatives of honor.

This chapter discusses the place and pertinence of songs in the contemporary motif of Ghana’s political tapestry; drawing out in the process, the lyrical notations that have embroidered electoral contests since the return to multiparty democratic governance in 1993. First, however, the authors present a brief political history of Ghana in which songs have been, perhaps, the most endearing factor in the serial subversions of the democratic system since independence in 1957. Next, they explain the objectives of the study; namely, to find out the presence and nature of imageries, repetitions and testimonials in political campaign songs in Ghana. Next, the objectives of the study are explained; namely, to discuss the nature of imageries, repetitions and testimonials in political campaign songs in Ghana. These appeals provide the compass to review the body of relevant literature in order to put the study in conversation with the state of research and theorizing in the field. Flowing from this, the authors explain and justify the choice and application of methodology used in assembling the data and presenting the findings, and in interlinking these to the discussion and conclusions of the study.


Ghana’S Campaign Songs In Historical Context

Since the years leading to the attainment of independence under Kwame Nkrumah on March 6, 1957 and until the return to multiparty democracy on January 7, 1993, the political history of Ghana has been characterized by a succession of military regimes. These are: A. A. Afrifa, under the National Liberation Council (NLC, 1966–1969); I. K. Acheampong, under the National Redemption Council (NRC, 1972–1975); I. K. Acheampong, in a transition into the Supreme Military Council (SMC, 1975–1978); F. W. K. Akuffo, under the Supreme Military Council (II), following a palace coup that ousted Acheampong (SMC II 1978–1979); J. J. Rawlings, under the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC, 1979); and J. J. Rawlings, under the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC, 1982–1992). These military regimes were punctuated by two shaky spells of constitutional governance headed by K. A. Busia (1969–1972), and Hilla Limann (1979–1981).

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