struck with a wooden stick, it can produce two sounds:
and "gong". Doesn't seem all that
interesting? Kids' stuff? If you knew Africa
a bit, you'd be sure: There must be more to it! And there is, of
course. But first things first:
The Ewe are a West African tribe. They
mainly live in the Volta Region
and parts of Togo on the other side of the border.
The Ewe are very famous for their music: Ewe
drumming is actually taught in Universities all around the
In an Ewe ensemble, the musicians use various types of drums, depending
piece they play. But one small instrument is always
present: our Gankogui.
The Backbone Of The Ewe Ensemble
The bell usually plays a simple pattern. It repeats itself without
changes throughout the whole length of a traditional piece. Now, this
may seem easy - but it plays a very important role in Ewe music:
The bell pattern is the "key" to the
rhythm. It provides the time line,
after which every other instrument in the ensemble orientates
But beware: Don't confuse the word "time line"
beat". The bell does not just mark the main beat of the rhythm.
more complicated than that:
Ewe drumming (like most African music)
This means for instance: While the bell repeats a 4/4
pattern three times, the drums may repeat a 3/4
rhythm four times. So, instead of a common beat,
we should rather call it a relation.
Obviously, the bell player must play very steadily to maintain
the relationships between the various instruments. Otherwise,
he will confuse the whole ensemble.
Other Uses And Purposes
In Ghana, one thing always amazes me: If you're looking to buy
a bell, and you can't find it at the art market, you'll definitely
find it where fetish and medicines are sold.
entertainment, this musical instrument obviously serves other
purposes as well. These are just some examples:
In traditional shrines, its sound calls the Gods and
spirits for help and advice.
Messangers walk through villages, playing a certain bell
rhythm. This calls the villagers to gather for an announcement by the
local chief or king.
Fitness groups gather on
Sundays for a run through their
towns. Bell rhythms motivate and pace the runners.
The Gankogui - An instrument the Ewe just can't do without.