Agbekor Dance - Addy

Unit 6: Further musical Understanding Revsion Cards for Agbekor Dance

  • Created by: Misha Mau
  • Created on: 06-04-12 15:10

Context/Background information

  • Originates from the Ewe people as a War dance (lived on western Africa)
  • This was performed to the village before or after battles. Nowdays it is witnessed in community/social gatherings (or for tourists) 
  • Agbekor translates to 'clear life' 
  • No formal structure to the dance - dancers changed moves according to changes in accompaniment. 
  • This is an oral tradition which passed from generation to generation without written music. 
  • Ewe people have skilled drummers and believe them to have inherited spirit of ancestors. 
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Performing Forces and their Handling

Three main instruments playing in the dance

  • Gankogui - has two bells with one high pitch and one low pitch approx. an 8vte apart. Played with wooden stick. Acts as time keeper
  • Sogo - 'father' drum, barrel shaped and played with sticks + hands. Acts as supporting drum in this piece.
  • Atsimevu - 'grandfather'/'master' drum. Largest drum in Ewe music. Play similar to sogo but finger, hands + sticks can use diff parts of drum head to create diff timbres. Can hit side of the drum.

African music drumming + speech connected. Wide range of pitches leads Atsimevu to being called 'talking drum'

'Master' drum is played by master drummer = most skilled. He communicated perforamance directions to other players + responisible for most complex parts (improvisations). 

Mustapha Tettey Addy is master here (famous Ghanaian musician).

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  • Opening section is monophonic gankogui
  • Ganjogui plays ostinato
  • 2 part texture 1/2 way through b1 with entry of Atsimevu
  • 3 part texture b3 - arrival of sogo, polyrhythmic
  • Variant b29-30 arsimevu + gankogui rhythmic unison for 2 ostinato cycles
  • Homorhythm final 3 notes
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Structure is related to function (in this piece dance). Repetition is main structural feature. Sutble variations to create interest. 

  • Gankogui ostinato is repeated all the way through with no alteration
  • This ostinato commonly found is sub-Saharan Africa and called 'standard bell pattern'
  • Sogo contains repetition of 3 quaver figure. Simple variants (added semiquavers b6 - dotted rhythm b36)
  • Atsimevu begins with dotted crotchets but patterns later grows in complexity
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Melody + Tonality/Harmony

  • Apart from Gankogui part all pitches are approximate and cannot be considered melodic
  • Some sense of pitch with Sogo and Atsimevu
  • Atsimevu has high + low notes with 4 different pitches almost extending to range of an 8tve
  • Gankogui contains octave interval from A to A
  • Neither tonality nor harmony can emerge from this piece
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Rhythmic and Metric features

  • Main beat fundemental to music. Gankogui empahsised this by playing low octave note on downbeat in ostinato
  • Polyrhythmic throughout. 
  • Crossrhythms are common. (b14) 
  • Atsimevu part contains: triplets (b41), ties (b44), double dotting (b8), unusual accents (b14), irregular rhythms (b38)
  • Syncapations are permanent feature
  • Sogo plays 3 quaver pattern but rhythmically displaced - gives anapaestic effect through piece
  • Master drummer b14 displaces his rhythm one quaver before main beat
  • Metrical disruption in Atsimevu part(b35)
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These notes are fantastic! So well detailed and set out nicely. Wish I'd come up with this stuff ages ago. 

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