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The double bell gankogui is a hand-forged iron bell. One gankogui actually consists of two bells, the smaller, higher-pitched one resting atop the larger, lower one. Many Ewe ensembles include two gankoguiwo, one much bigger than the other.
The gankogui is sometimes referred to as gakpevi, or “forged iron carrying a child”. The larger bell is considered to be the parent of the smaller one. (Ladzekpo) Most good gankoguiwo are made in Togo and Benin. (Pantaleoni 1972: 58)
The larger bell of the gankogui is tuned approximately one octave below the smaller one.
The repetitive pattern of the gankogui provides a reference point for all of the other instruments in the ensemble. The gankogui is played with a wooden stick and is held in the strong hand where the two bells are joined. The player sits upright with the bottom of the large bell resting on the thigh. There are three syllables referring to the different strokes applied to the gankogui: tin (rebounding shot on the large bell), go (rebounding shot on the small bell), and ka (shot pressly firmly into the small bell). Variations on these sounds are achieved by damping on the thigh the open bottom of the large bell. (Ladzekpo)
The music of the Ewe drum ensemble is transmitted almost exclusively aurally. The vocables, however, are similar to notation in that they serve as a tool for learning and remembering rhythms and patterns.
The gankogui plays a cyclical ostinato that provides a reference point for all other instruments and dancers in the ensemble. The Ewe live between the Volta and Mono rivers in West Africa, in what is now Ghana and Togo. (Locke 1979: 01) The Ewe have migrated to this area from Benin and Western Nigeria since the 16th century.
Galeota, Joseph. 1985. “Drum Making Among the Southern Ewe People of Ghana and Togo.” M.A. thesis, Wesleyan University.
Locke, David. 1979. “The Music of Atsiagbeko.” 2 vols. Ph.D. dissertation, Wesleyan University.
Pantaleoni, Hewitt. 1972. “The Rhythm of Atsia Dance Drumming Among the Anlo (Ewe) of Anyako.” Ph.D. dissertation, Wesleyan University.
Author: Isaac P. Hirt-Manheimer