Ghanaian Dance-Drumming in the Music Classroom

Background

In the summer of 2008, I had the opportunity to travel to the village of Dagbamete, Ghana to study music. As a percussionist, I couldn’t ignore this chance. This was a three-week study abroad course through SUNY Potsdam. During this time, we lived in the village, taking music lessons Monday through Friday during the day and excursions around Ghana on the weekends.

Dagbamete is located in the Volta region of Ghana, which is in the southeast, near the border of Togo. Ghana is an incredibly diverse country, with over 100 languages spoken. The people in our village belonged to the Ewe people. In Ewe tradition, music consists of three parts: drumming, dancing, and singing. Without all three components, a piece is not complete.

We learned three different styles of music in Dagbamete: Gahu, Zigi, and Kpanlogo. This article will be focusing on Gahu. Gahu, which means “expensive dance,” originated in Nigeria and was integrated into various Ghanaian cultures as people moved. Each tribe has its own variation on the Gahu. The patterns I will be discussing are specific to the Ewe version of Gahu as taught by Kwasi Frederick Dunyo. In addition, I am including notation for the drumming and singing and video for the dancing.

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