The Famous Ewe Rhythm And Dance

It's probably Agbadza , if there's only one traditional rhythm you remember upon return from Ghana or Togo. To tourists without any knowledge of Ewe drumming, this fun piece is simply known as "the chicken dance". You'll know why when you see it!


Today, Agbadza is a very popular recreational dance. It entertains people at funerals, weddings and any other get-together or party. Even the modern bands in the cities like to incorporate this fun rhythm into their music.

Some traditional Ewe dances are reserved to people of a certain age group or religion. But any child, woman or great-grandfather is welcome to dance Agbadza.

At a funeral in Atsiekpui, Volta Region of Ghana

The name itself means something like "for everybody". If you ever get a chance to attend a traditional Ewe event, even you, a foreign visitor, will be expected to dance. (How else do you think I've earned the permission to record the above video!)

A bit of history

Despite the first impression, the background of this dance isn't all that fun. Before the Ewe people were able to settle in the beautiful Volta Region of Ghana and in Southern Togo, they went through tough times of war and oppression: They had to fight their way to freedom.

To train and encourage their warriors, the Ewe played various war dances, one of them called Atrikpui. In the 1920s, after the Ewe had enjoyed a period of peace, this serious dance turned into the fun and entertaining Agbadza that we know today.

How they keep an old thing fun

When the Ewe play a traditional piece, they like to go on for hours! But don't think that's boring or monotonous. When Africans play drum, more is going on than we think:

To keep the excitement up, a skillful Master Drummer will introduce a new beat and song at just the right moment. He can even blend in other Ewe rhythms (like Agbekor or Ageshe) that sound very similar.

Also, as many other African tribes, the Ewe are able to "talk" through their drums. For instance, the Master Drummer may drum the name of another musician or a dancer to challenge him or her. That person will step up and respond with a nice move. This way, the people present can playfully interact with each other.

I start to feel that our party music is monotonous compared to this!

Learn to play yourself

Agbadza DVD
Instructional DVD

Although we can't talk on the drums without knowing the Ewe language, even we Westerners can learn to play the basic rhythm. In fact, Ghanaians teach us in Universities all around the world.

If you're not lucky enough to have a Ghanaian teacher near you, you can learn Ewe drumming with the help of the National Ghana Dance Ensemble: The DVD "Dance-Drumming of the Anlo Ewe" teaches every part of Agbadza, Agbekor and Kinka step by step.

(The drums you'll need are Atsimevu, Sogo, Kidi and Kaganu as well as the Gankogui bell and several Axatse gourd rattles.)

Enjoy and keep partying with the Ewe!

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