According to Godwin Agbeli (father of Nani Agbeli) and David Locke, Adzogbo was created in pre-colonial times by the Fo-speaking people of Dahomey. According to oral tradition, Adzogbo provided a means for Fo warriors to get information about impending battles from their war gods. It is said that several weeks before an encounter, adolescent boys were taken into seclusion in the forest, where they were treated with herbs, kept apart from women, and trained in the esoteric lore of the war gods associated with Adzogbo. They practiced the music and dance of Adzogbo, and it was believed that the gods themselves dictated the choreographed dance movements that the boys learned.
On an appointed day, the boys were brought from the forest to dance Adzogbo before the warriors. As they danced, some of the boys would become possessed with the spirit of a war god. It was thought that the war leader could foretell the course of the upcoming battle by interpreting the possessed boys' movements. The legendary Fo war leader Kondo is believed to have been one such hero. With the pacification of West Africa, by the end of the 19th century the dance had lost its esoteric purpose; Adzogbo then evolved into a vehicle for men to display their strength, agility, and virile spirits.
Atsiagbekor is among the oldest traditional dances of the Ewe-speaking people of Southern Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Originally a war dance performed upon the warriors' return to the village, it is now performed on many different social occasions.
One of the outstanding features of the dance is the interaction between the master drummer and the dancers. "Every rhythmic theme played on the master drum has a responding sequence of dance movements which is timed to precisely match the drum rhythms" (David Locke, 1978).
Atsiagbekor songs constitute an important aspect of the heritage of Ewe oral tradition. Most of the songs contain historical references to their chiefs, war leaders, or migration stories, as well as incorporating themes relating to the invincibility of the Ewes against their enemies, and loyalty, bravery, death etc.
To watch an Atsiagbekor performance today in Ghana is to watch scenes which may have their actual origins in battles that were fought as the Ewes trekked through hostile countries in search of peace.
The origin of the kete tradition and the instruments involved is an open question. The Akan people have three oral histories that explain the origin of the kete in various ways. The first story tells of super human creatures encountered on a hunting expedition. These creatures are honored by a piece (Abofoo) during all kete performances. The second story tells of a war against the Gyamang in which the piece Adinkra was added to the performance of kete. The third story tells of a war with the Akyem. During a battle with this group all of the instruments in their kete ensemble were taken and adopted by the Ashante. While the kete ensemble remains to this day a component of Akan life and retains its primary association with traditional chiefs, in recent decades new social settings have emerged for this ensemble. In particular, some secondary and tertiary educational institutions possess a kete ensemble and provide performance instruction to present their students with an opportunity to learn about Akan drumming. Kete is an Akan drum ensemble with unknown origins. Many Kete ensembles exist in the Akan regions of Ghana and often play at funerals.
The Asantehene’s (the Ashanti King) ensemble plays at ancestor venerations and would in the past play at executions. Kete ensembles were also taken to war. The music of Kete is reputed to possess the power of attracting good spirits. J.H. Kwabena Nketia states that "the surrogated texts extol high moral values through the telling of heroic ideals."
Kete dancing developed to involve using symbolic hand gestures which reflect these moral values. It is danced barefoot by trained male dancers with their lapa cloth lowered beneath the chest.
The instruments of Kete are as follows: Petia (small stick drum), Kwadum (master drum), Apentema (hand drum), Abrukua (stick drum), Donno (hourglass-shaped talking drum), Ntorowa (gourd rattle) and Dawuro (boat-shaped, hand-held iron bell). Kete ensembles once contained a vocal choir and ensemble of Atenteben (vertical bamboo flutes), but both are no longer utilized.
Gahu is a West African musical form comprised of dance movements, percussive rhythms, and songs. It is distinguished by the lead drum called Boba (an unusually large barrel-shaped drum), the use of many languages in the song texts, and the incorporation of a number of European elements, including Christian themes.
The earliest written information concerning the history of Gahu appeared in the 1960's in the concert program notes of performances at the University of Ghana, Legon. At that time it was believed that Gahu was an adaptation of a Yoruba dance from Badagry. This hypothesis, now obsolete, is not totally illogical and was based on three factors:
1. The Yoruba-Nigerian attire, which was the official Gahu costume.
2. The few unintelligible Yoruba words found in Gahu songs.
3. The name Badagry, a Nigerian town with which Gahu was associated. From more recent research, we now know that Gahu was created by the Egun speaking people from the town of Kotonu in the what is now the Republic of Benin, not by Nigerian Yorubas as was previously believed.
From Benin, Gahu then spread to the Badagry area of Nigeria where migrant Ewe fishermen heard and adopted it, eventually bringing it with them to Ghana. During the initial stages of its development, Ewe fishermen were responsible for its dissemination. Gahu is a social dance and is believed to bring positive energy and happiness.
Kpanlogo is a recreational form of dance and music from Ghana, West Africa. It was first played by the Ga ethnic group in and around the capital city of Accra, but Kpanlogo is now performed and enjoyed throughout the country.
It began in the early 1960's as an innovative dance form, influenced by American rock and roll, and giving the younger Ga generations a point of distinction from their elders. Kpanlogo is essentially an urban youth dance-drumming style, as well as a symbol of the commitment of Ghanaian urban neighborhood youths to advocating their perspective in shaping the political vision of post-colonial Africa.
The Kpanlogo dance is often performed low to the ground, with bent knees and back, and frequently features sexually suggestive motions. The music accompanying the Kpanlogo dance is drawn from older Ga drumming traditions; such as Gome, Oge, and Kolomashie.
Kpanlogo music uses three types of instruments: Nono (metal bell), Fao (gourd rattle), and Kpanlogo (hand drums). The primary Kpanlogo bell pattern is one of the most common and oldest key rhythms found in sub-Saharan Africa. The bell pattern used in Kpanlogo is the same as the son clave pattern heard in Cuban music and salsa. It is also similar to the "Bo Diddley beat" popularized by the U.S. rhythm and blues musician, Bo Diddley. Read more...
Like Tora and Takai, Baamaaya has several segments, each with its own name, musical phrases, and dance movements. Bamaaya is not linked with the chiefs of Dagbon,
It started in a village named Zheng within the chieftaincy area of Nantoŋ, there was a time when the village was hit by drought and hunger when one of the only tubaani (Bambara beans, similar to chick peas) was the only foodstuffs that can be grown. Children, satisfied with full bellies after their evening meal, would jape about the compound with cornhusks full in their waistbands saying, "Tubaan' kpinli," meaning "bowl of tubaani beans." For numerous days the grown-ups liked the children's play up until one day an adult inquired them, "What are you doing?" The children did not response because the African politeness of the era spoke that children sometimes are not supposed to talk straight to adults. A wise elder who was old enough to be a grandfather started a joking relationship with the children and talked to them in secret. The children enlightened them that because their mothers had fed them nicely, their bellies were full so they felt happy.
Drummers were invited to play for the kids. This was the beginning of Mazhe whose gung-gong theme goes with the words Tubaan' kpele (vocals: kaka kaki). The dance movement was modified from a dance called Jera. Instead of Jera’s belt of cowry shells, women used shells, beads and cotton to make colorful belts of pom-poms that drew attention to the dancersshimmying midsections.
Later, when rain had fallen and crops were harvested, creative adults adapted the children's game into a full-fledged dance called Bamaaya. Among the lunga's phrases is one that, "Rain has fallen. The ground has become soft." [Lo means a swampy area, for example, a field where rice is farmed.] Bamaaya expressed the farmers' happiness at a good harvest. The dance became popular among young men who enjoyed doing it on moonlight nights.
As year went by, dancers apparently began wearing increasingly outlandish costumes to amuse themselves and their audiences. Strikingly in the gender-specialized Afro-Islamic culture of the Dagomba, the Baamaaya costume suggests male cross-dressing. Some Dagombas teach that the Baamaaya costume stems from unethical conduct of men toward women. In this account, in order for the drought to end, men had to appease land gods by wearing women's clothes. Alhaji reports that his teachers never mentioned this story and that he did not hear it during his youth when he enjoyed dancing Baamaaya. He doubts its credibility. Other Dagomba teachers suggest that Bamaaya frenetic motions derive from waving off mosquitoes by shaking hips and arms. This makes sense to me, given the story of origin, but Alhaji tends to downplay its significance.
In an arrangement taught by Alhaji, dancers come to the stage and form a circle in time to the relatively slow-paced music of Naa Daa. After moving through the more up-tempo sections, dancers go off stage with a return to the music of Bamaaya. In Baamaaya, Mazhe and Nyagboli dancers display their own creativity and style; they all utilize the same movement vocabulary but everyone is "doing their own thing," so to speak. Dakɔli Kutoko is unique: dancers bump hips against their neighbors on the circle. This section pokes fun at unmarried males saying, "Bachelors cannot farm." The message is that a farmer needs the manual labor of a big family in order to produce enough food to run a household.
The instrumentation in Baamaaya is unique among these materials: there is no part for answer lunga. Nyagboli in Baamaaya is slightly different from the way it is played in Tora and Takai.
This is the account of the history of Baamaaya told to Prof. David Locke by his teacher, the late Alhaji Abubakari Lunna. See <http://sites.tufts.edu/dagomba/the-repertory/nvaaboli-baamaava-4/read-more/
Agbadza finds its origin in the times of war. The Ewe people went through various times of war and oppression before settling down in the Volta Region of Ghana and in Southern Togo. In order to train their warriors to be ready for battle, the Ewes used various songs and dances to encourage the warriors. Through this a dance called Atrikpui was born. This dance later evolved to Agbadza, which is no longer used for war but rather in events that are more joyful. Through Agbadza, at the time known as Atrikpui, Ewe singers and poets sang about battles, life and death, heroism, cowardice, migration, conquest, imperialism, and a warrior ethos. The move towards Agbadza was done due to a period of peace that was enjoyed by the Ewes around the 1920s, and so instead they decided to use some of their old songs as entertainment.
The dance is usually played at funerals, weddings, and parties. Essentially, it is played at any occasion that called for an Ewe identity emblem, since this music is known by other ethnic groups to be uniquely Ewe. Everyone is welcome to join in the dance, unlike other Ewe dances, which sometimes are reserved for people of a certain age, religion, or gender.
Today, Agbadza is the most famous and widely played Ewe dance.