Agbekor Dance (Traditional Ewe Music)

Revision cards for Agbekor Dance set work. Music A2 2012

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Background

Originated with the Ewe people of Ghana

The music would be performed without notation

Ritual war dance, but now performed at social events or cultural displays

Characterised by movements which symbolise the various stages of battle

Played on percussion instruments only

- all relevant aspects are timbre, rhythm and structure

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Instruments

Three instruments:

- Gankogui: a double bell, made of iron and struck with beaters. The bells sound approximately an octave apart

- Atsimevu: the master drum. Relatively tall, narrow drum played with one or two beaters or a hand. Muting effects can be produced to simulate speech rhythms. Used to give cues to other performers

- Sogo: a barrel shaped drum played with beaters

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Rhythm

Polyrhythmic and involves cross-rhythms

Gangokui plays an ostinato throughout

- the ostinato forms the timeline, that the other parts relate to

Time signature is 12/8. The Gangokui's part has an additive rhythm of 2+3+2+2+3 quavers, giving a syncopated effect

Sogo has a separate rhythm, with muting giving the impression of two pitches

- it opens with steady uninterrupted quavers, but eventually semiquavers and dotted rhythms are introduced

The atsimevu opens with steady dotted crotchet beats, played on the wood of the drum, before introducing a wider range of rhythmic figures and groupings (semiquavers, quavers), sometimes in sets of four and triplets

- bar 21 the atsimevu doubles the ostinato 

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Structure

  • Based largely on repetition, evolution and elaboration of basic rhythmic patterns
  • In effect it is 'through composed' 
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