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Adzogbo is a dance-drumming repertoire for various devotional activities for Adzogbo, a divinity of war among the Foñ-Ewe people of Benin, West Africa. 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.

AdzogboSankofa Root II
00:00 / 00:56

ADZOGBO

Adzogbo

AGBEKOR

Agbekor

Atsiagbekor is among the oldest traditional dances of the Ewe-speaking people of Southern Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Initially, a war dance performed upon the warriors' return to the village 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 essential 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 Most of the songs contain historical references to their chiefs, war leaders, or migration stories, as well as incorporating themes relating to the invincibility of the Ewes against their enemies, loyalty, bravery, death, etc.

 

To watch an Atsiagbekor performance today in Ghana is to watch scenes that may have their actual origins in battles that were fought as the Ewes trekked through hostile countries in search of peace.

AgbekoSankofa Root II
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KETE

Kete

The origin of the Kete tradition and the instruments involved is an open question. The Akan people have three oral histories that explain the source of the Kete in various ways. The first story tells of superhuman 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 fight 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 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 was developed to use symbolic hand gestures reflecting these moral values. It is danced barefoot by trained male dancers with their lap 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 an ensemble of Atenteben (vertical bamboo flutes), but both are no longer utilized.

KeteSankofa Root II
00:00 / 01:54

GAHU

Gahu

Gahu is a vibrant, dynamic form of West African music and dance rooted in Badagry/Yoruba, Nigeria. Over time, it has become increasingly popular among the Ewe-speaking people in Ghana, where it is celebrated for its lively and energetic rhythms and colorful and expressive dance movements. One of the most distinctive features of Gahu is the use of a large drum known as the Boba, which adds a powerful and resonant bass to the music. In addition, Gahu incorporates various languages into its songs, reflecting the diverse cultural influences that have shaped this rich and fascinating art form. Finally, one of the most fascinating aspects of Gahu is its incorporation of European influence, which has helped to give this unique musical style its distinctive character and identity.

 

Gahu's history can be traced back to the 1960s when the program notes of concerts performed at the University of Ghana, Legon, were discovered. The earliest written records of Gahu's origins can be found in these notes. At first, many believed that Gahu was a modified version of a Yoruba dance that originated from Badagry. However, this theory has since been disproven. Nonetheless, it was a reasonable assumption based on three key factors.  

 

1. The conventional garb worn during Gahu performances was the traditional attire of the Yoruba-Nigerian culture.

2. The words in Gahu songs featured several Yoruba words that were difficult to decipher.

3. Formerly, Gahu was believed to have originated in the Nigerian town of Badagry. Still, recent research has revealed that it was created by the Egun-speaking people from Kotonu in the Republic of Benin rather than by the Nigerian Yorubas, as was previously assumed.

 

Gahu, a lively social dance believed to bring about positive energy, unity, and happiness, originates in the West African nation of Benin. From there, it eventually went to Nigeria's Badagry/Yoruba area, where migrant Ewe fishermen adopted it. These fishermen were instrumental in spreading the dance throughout the region, and eventually, it became a widespread cultural practice in Ghana. During its early stages of development, the Ewe fishermen played a crucial role in sharing Gahu with others, ensuring that this vibrant dance form flourished and evolved.

GahuSankofa Root II
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KPANLOGO

Kpanlogo

Kpanlogo is a lively and vibrant recreational dance and music style that came into being in the late 1950s as Ghana celebrated its independence seven years later. The youth predominantly crafted this cultural expression as a means of entertainment. Yet, it also draws upon and integrates musical themes and motifs from older Ga pieces, including Gome, Kolomashie, Oge, and Highlife. The dynamic nature of Kpanlogo reflects Ghana's rich heritage and traditions while also serving as a celebration of the country's newfound independence.

 

According to Nii Taki, an elderly musician from the Bukom suburb of Accra, the original name of Kpanlogo was Gbajo, which means ‘storytelling’ in Ga. This reflects the cultural tradition where the creation of music and dance accompanied storytelling. In these gatherings, a tale would be shared, inspiring the group to compose a song and then dance to the music. These narratives often drew from the stories of Kpanlogo, Alogodza, and Imama, who were the daughters of a local chief. Even today, their names echo through many songs and dance movements associated with Kpanlogo.

 

Instruments

Ngongo: (nn-go-nn-go)

This is the Ga name for the two-tone Gangokui iron bell. This instrument is one of three essential "timekeeper" instruments within the musical composition. It maintains a consistent pattern that persists throughout the piece, serving as a foundational element.

 

Ashakashaka: (a-shah-ka-shah-ka)

This is a Ga name for the gourd rattle. It is also a timekeeping instrument essential for maintaining the overall foundational rhythm.

 

Ododompo: (oh-doh-dom-po):

Also known as castanets, they comprise a round metal or wooden ball attached to a loop designed to be worn on the finger and a metal or wooden ring intended to be worn on the thumb. When the ball and the ring are skillfully brought together in a clapping motion, they produce a distinct clicking sound, imparting a unique and vibrant percussive element to the music.

 

Tamalin 1 and 2 (tah-mah-lin): 

This instrument is a square-frame drum designed to be held in the hands. It can be played individually or as a pair. In the case of two drums, they are tuned so that one produces a higher pitch while the other makes a lower pitch, creating a complementary and harmonious sound.

 

Kpanlogo mi (3 or 4 drums): 

The lead Kpanlogo drum, also known as "Kpanlogo mi," is typically tuned to the highest pitch, with the other two or three Kpanlogo drums being tuned to successively lower pitches. This tuning arrangement creates a harmonic and melodic quality when all the drums are played together.

 

Form of Kpanlogo:

Kpanlogo is a dynamic and ever-evolving style of music and dance characterized by a constant flux of new lead variations. The music typically begins at a slow tempo and progressively accelerates to a faster speed, creating an engaging and energetic atmosphere.

 

In a performance setting, groups meticulously craft arrangements of movements and synchronize them with lead drumming. In a traditional context, the lead drummer keenly observes the dancers and adapts by improvising intricate variations to complement their movements. These subtle adaptations are echoed and enhanced by supporting drums, creating a rich and responsive musical experience.

 

Kpanlogo movements and songs are also meant to gossip and talk about one another in the group or get attention from a group member or an audience by moving one's body. Today, Kpanlogo is divided into four sections.

 

  1. Oge: This rhythm section has a slow-tempo groove, with a lot of vocal singing but no dancing. It is usually used to set up the stage and help get the audience ready.

 

 2.  Kpanlogo: This is a vibrant and central section of the entire piece, serving as the focal           point for drumming, dancing, and singing. It features two distinct parts: the initial group         dance, characterized by synchronized movements and energetic rhythms, followed by           the possibility of a solo performance if the group chooses to perform it. This section               showcases the collective energy of the performers while allowing for individual                     expression if desired.

 

 3.  Gossip: In this section, the performers engage in a unique form of expression. Singers,         drummers, and dancers indirectly talk and gossip using spoken words about a group             member or someone else. After the spoken word, all three or four Kpanlogo drums play         the spoken words as a rhythm. This creates a captivating back-and-forth exchange of             different gossip spoken words until the lead drum changes into Highlife or a call to end         the piece.

 

 4.  Highlife: This section is instrumentals with dialogue or call-and-response between the             three or four drums led by the lead drum. The Hilife part is a recent addition to the set.

 

The musical arrangement can be tailored to the group's preferences, allowing for flexibility in performance. It's important to note that not all four sections are played during every performance.

KpanlogoAllan Family
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BAAMAAYA

Baamaaya

Like Tora and Takai, Baamaaya has several segments, each with its 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 town was hit by drought and hunger when one of the only tubaani (Bambara beans, similar to chickpeas) was the superior foodstuffs that could be grown. Satisfied with full bellies after their evening meal, children would jape about the compound with cornhusks complete 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 respond 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 spoke to them secretly. 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 dancers shimmying 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 years went by, dancers 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 the unethical conduct of men toward women. In this account, men had to appease land gods by wearing women's clothes for the drought to end. Alhaji reports that his teachers never mentioned this story and did not hear it during his youth when he enjoyed dancing Baamaaya. He doubts its credibility. Other Dagomba teachers suggest that Bamaaya's 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 tune of Bamaaya. In Baamaaya, Mazhe and Nyagboli dancers display their 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 their hips against their neighbors in 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 to produce enough food to run a household.

 

The instrumentation in Baamaaya is unique among these materials: there is no part for answering lunga. Nyagboli in Baamaaya is slightly different from how 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/

BaamaayaExponent of Baamaaya (Sulley Imoro and his group)
00:00 / 02:33

AGBADZA

Agbadza

Agbadza finds its origin in 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 on any occasion that calls for a Ewe identity emblem since other ethnic groups know this music 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.

AgbadzaMinyor Haaborbor
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