Great Grooves #3: Agbekor (slow)

Interactive multitrack African drumming mixer.


Thanks for checking out the 3rd installment of Great Grooves! In this post, you will learn about — and listen to — the slow-paced section of Atsiagbekɔ (pronounced ah-CHAHG-beh-kaw), a traditional warrior drum-and-dance style of the Ewe (EH-way) people of Ghana’s Volta Region. As with the 1st installment on Gahu and the 2nd installment on Adzrowo, this post features a new interactive African drumming multitrack mixer.


Atsiagbekɔ: Background and Instruments

According to Ewe Master Drummer Emmanuel Agbeli of Kopeyia, Ghana, Atsiagbekɔ (commonly called Agbekɔ or Agbekor for short) is one of the oldest drum-and-dance styles in the Ewe canon. In his telling, Agbekɔ is a narrative piece that weaves together drumming, dancing, singing and chanting to recount the story of a small village that successfully fended off an attack by a much larger urban army over 500 years ago. To preserve the victory for posterity, the chief of this small village brought together the community’s best artists to compose Atsiagbekɔ.

A traditional Atsiagbekɔ ensemble is comprised of seven different instrument types (pictured below), each with a distinct construction, sound, and rhythmic character. Whereas in Gahu and Adzrowo there are a series of rhythmic dialogues between the lead drum and the supporting ensemble instruments, in Agbekɔ this antiphonal structure (“call-and-response”) exists almost solely between the lead drum and the dancers. As such, none of the six supporting ensemble parts strays from its ostinato rhythm.
Agbekor drums Ghana Africa

  1. gankogui (pronounced gahn-KOHG-way): two-tone iron bell
  2. axatse (pronounced ah-HAHT-say): African gourd rattle
  3. kagan drum (pronounced kah-GAHN): high-pitched accompaniment drum
  4. kidi drum (pronounced kee-DEE): medium-pitched accompaniment drum
  5. kroboto drum (pronounced kro-boh-TOH): medium/low-pitched accompaniment drum
  6. totodzi drum (pronounced toh-toh-JEE): low-pitched accompaniment drum
  7. atsimevu drum (pronounced aht-CHIM-ay-voo): lead/master drum

Listen and Learn: Interactive Audio Mixer

Using the interactive multitrack drumming mixer below, listen to what all seven instrumental parts sound like in the present-day Kopeyia-style arrangement of slow Atsiagbekɔ. Due to space constraints, the gankogui (two-tone iron bell) and axatse (gourd rattle) have been consolidated into a single track (Track 2). In order to hear the ensemble at its most elemental, the recording of the atsimevu lead drum does not include any variations, but rather plays what might be thought of as the drum’s “holding pattern.”

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.

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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.