Great Grooves #2: Adzrowo

Interactive multitrack African drumming mixer.


Thanks for checking out the 2nd installment of Great Grooves. In this post, you will learn about — and make your own mixes of — Adzrowo (pronounced ahj-ROH-woh), a recreational style of music and dance of the Ewe (EH-way) people of Ghana’s Volta Region. As with the 1st installment on Gahu, this post features a new interactive African drumming multitrack mixer.


Adzrowo: Background and Instruments

According to Ewe Master Drummer Emmanuel Agbeli of Kopeyia, Ghana, Adzrowo (commonly called Adzro for short) originated among the Ewes around 150 years ago. Like Gahu, Adzrowo is social music, meaning it has no inherent religious or spiritual connotations, nor is it reserved for a specific time of year or specific members of the community.

When traveling through Ghana’s Volta Region, one will often find Adzrowo being played at traditional funerals. However, since funeral services in Ghana are in many ways joyous occasions, there are no morbid associations with Adzrowo generally.

A traditional Adzrowo ensemble is comprised of seven different instrument types (pictured below), each with a distinct construction, sound, and rhythmic character. NOTE: For clarity and ease of use, the instrumental mixer only includes the six support parts (1–6) and not the lead drum (7).

Ewe drums from Ghana

  1. Gankogui (pronounced gahn-KOHG-way): two-tone iron bell
    One of three “timekeeper” instruments, the gankogui’s fundamental pattern remains unaltered throughout the entire form of the piece. Traditionally, there is one gankogui in an Adzrowo ensemble.
  2. Axatse (pronounced ah-HAHT-say): African gourd rattle
    Also a timekeeper instrument. There can be between one and five axatse players in an ensemble, sometimes more.
  3. Kagan drum (pronounced kah-GAHN): high-pitched accompaniment drum
    Third timekeeper part. Traditionally, there is one kagan in a Adzrowo ensemble.
  4. Kidi drum (pronounced kee-DEE): medium-pitched accompaniment drum
    One of two “response” drums, the kidi’s pattern can change in response to rhythmic cues played by the atsimevu lead drum. Traditionally, there is one kidi in an Adzrowo ensemble.
  5. Sogo drum (pronounced sog-GOH): low-pitched accompaniment drum
    One of two response drums, the sogo’s pattern can change in response to rhythmic cues played by the atsimevu lead drum. Traditionally, there is one sogo in an Adzrowo ensemble.
  6. Boba drum (pronounced boh-BAH): low-pitched accompaniment drum
    Whereas in Gahu the boba is played with sticks and functions as the master drum, in Adzrowo that leader role is reserved almost exclusively for the taller, higher-pitched atsimevu drum. In addition, the type of boba used in Adzrowo tends to be smaller and is played with bare hands, resulting in a quieter, higher-pitched sound that helps it blend better with the other support instruments.
  7. Atsimevu drum (pronounced aht-CHIM-ay-voo): lead/master drum
    By playing specific rhythmic cues, the atsimevu player guides the response drums through the antiphonal (i.e., “call-and-response”) dialogues that give Adzrowo a “theme-and-variations” structure similar to that of Gahu.

Form of Adzrowo

Because Adzrowo is part of an oral tradition, varying renditions and interpretations abound, not merely among neighboring countries and regions, but even neighboring villages. In and around the village of Kopeyia, Ghana, the prevailing interpretation has a few key features that are worth noting:

  1. Like Gahu, Adzrowo contains a series of antiphonal dialogues that the lead drummer (atsimevu) initiates with the response drummers (sogo, kidi and boba).
  2. However, in Adzrowo the dancers dance a vastly simpler choreography, one that is almost wholly independent of motivic changes occurring in and among the ensemble parts.
  3. Adzrowo is a genre that is respected among Ewes for its sophistication, and tends to be favored by older members of the community.

Listen and Learn: Interactive Audio Mixer

Using the interactive multitrack drumming mixer below, listen closely to what all six support parts sound like during the basic section of the present-day Kopeyia-style arrangement of Adzrowo. Tempo is moderate for purposes of teaching and learning.

Isolate different rhythmic parts and create original mixes by adjusting instrument levels — including soloing, muting and panning individual tracks. All instruments are played by Jeremy Cohen.

Close help window

Welcome to ThisWorldMusic's Audio Mixer!

Tracks are listed, along with play, stop, pan, volume, and mute controls.


Play -> plays all of the tracks at once.

Pause -> stops all the tracks at once if currently playing.

Resume -> stops all the tracks at once if currently playing.

M -> Mute, mutes or unmutes a single track.

S –> Solo, solos or unsolos a single track.

About ThisWorldMusic

Through workshops and award-winning cultural immersion trips to Africa and Cuba, ThisWorldMusic brings the vibrant music, dance and culture of the African Diaspora to students and professionals around the globe.

Our mission: To create cultural bridges between people and communities worldwide through a shared loved of music and the arts.