Kenneth Gourlay archive

Scope and Content

The archive includes field recordings, papers, drafts of articles, notebooks, index cards and some published articles from Kenneth A. Gourlay's ethnomusicological research on the musical cultures of the Karamojong of Uganda, in Nigeria and in Papua New Guinea.

Administrative / Biographical History

Kenneth Alexander Gourlay (1919-1995) was a British ethnomusicologist who conducted work amongst the Karimojong of Uganda (1965-66), in Papua New Guinea (1972-74) and in Nigeria (1974- 80).

Gourlay was educated at Henry Mellish Grammar School, Bulwell, Nottingham, and graduated in 1940 from St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, with a degree in English Language and Literature. Following military service, he taught in a number of grammar schools in England, until 1965, when he was appointed head of the English department and director of Liberal Studies at Makerere College School, Kampala, Uganda. During this time he studied African music and ethnomusicology with John Blacking and K. P. Wachsmann, and conducted ethnomusicological, anthropological and linguistic fieldwork among theKarimojong. He made a number of field recording of Karimojong ox-songs.

Gourlay was awarded a Ph.D. in 1971 for his thesis "Studies in Karimojong Musical Culture", and in 1972 took a post as senior lecturer in the Expressive Arts department of Goroka Teachers College, Papua New Guinea. In Papua New Guinea, he worked on teaching methods incorporating traditional music, and conducted research into the distribution of sound-producing instruments and cultural concepts governing the practice of traditional music making.

In 1974, Gourlay went to Nigeria as Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Nigerial Cultural Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. The following year, he was appointed head of the Ethnomusicology Section there. In Nigeria, he researched particularly the socio-cultural significance of an Ataka "musical pot" (kimkim), particularly among the Kagoro, Morwa, Kagoma and Irigwe.

His major research project in Nigeria was "Instrumental Music Areas of Nigeria".In 1981, Gourlay was appointed Senior Fellow in Music Studies in the Africa Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Gourlay died in 1995.


Arranged in four sub-fonds. Majority of the collection is catalogued to item level.

Access Information

Limited access. An appointment is necessary.

Acquisition Information

Gourlay's son (Steven) c. 1995. No contact details.

Other Finding Aids


Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

9 boxes of papers; 6 boxes of tapes. Much of the paper (particularly that from Papua New Guinea) was damaged by rusting paper clips and in poor general condition. All paper clips and non-archival enclosures have been removed and the papers re-packaged using archival quality clips, folders and boxes.

Archivist's Note

Appraised, arranged and catalogued September 2010 by Fiona McKnight. Gourlay used a numbering system of his own,but not consistently throughout his papers. The collection has been arranged in four sub-fonds, broadly according to ethnographic group. Gourlay's original numbering is noted in the catalogue records.

Tapes are also labelled with the same numbering system as used on material at the National Sound Archive. Papua New Guinea field recordings are possibly unique to this repository, not at BL. Janet Topp-Fargion from BL has viewed the collection and advises further research is desireable.

Conditions Governing Use

May not be copied.

Related Material

British Library National Sound Archives hold 32 reel-to-reel tapes 9C105), of Ugandan and Nigerian recordings, see BL sound archive website Gourlay collection