Great Grooves #6: Kpanlogo

Interactive multitrack African drumming mixer.

Welcome

Thanks for checking out the 6th installment of Great Grooves, ThisWorldMusic’s series of educational posts on West African drumming.

In this post, you will learn about — and listen to — Kpanlogo (PAHN-loh-goh), a recreational style of music of the Ga people of Ghana’s central coastline. As with all our posts, this one features an interactive African drumming multitrack mixer.

↓ JUMP TO AUDIO MIXER ↓

Kpanlogo: Background & History

Kpanlogo is a recreational piece that emerged in the late 1950s, around the time that Ghana gained its independence. Although it was created primarily by young people as a form of entertainment, it contains musical motifs borrowed from older Ga pieces like Gome, Kolomashie, and Oge, as well as highlife.

According to Nii Taki, an elder musician from the Bukom suburb of Accra, the original name of Kpanlogo was Gbajo, which means ‘storytelling’ in Ga. Someone would tell a story, the group would make up a song about it, and then set a dance to the song. Some of the stories that have been set to dances are based on three daughters of a local chief whose names were Kpanlogo, Alogodza, and Imama. Even today, their names can be heard woven throughout many of the songs and dance movements.

Initially, many of the dance movements were seen as risqué, to the point where Kpanlogo was almost banned by the government. As a compromise, a version that allowed for more space between dancers was created and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, approved of the new choreography. Since that time, it has become immensely popular, both inside and outside of Ghana.

Instruments

  1. Ngongo (nn-Go-nn-Go): this is the Ga name for the two-tone gangokui iron bell. One of three “timekeeper” instruments, its pattern stays the same throughout the entirety of the piece.
  2. Ashakashaka (a-SHAH-ka-SHAH-ka): Ga name for the axatse gourd rattle. Also a timekeeper instrument.
  3. Ododompo (oh-doh-DOM-po):
    also called castanet in English, this instrument contains a round metal ball that you wear on your finger, and a metal ring on the thumb, which you click together to make the sound.
  4. Tamalin 1 (tah-mah-LIN): a square frame drum held in the hands. Sometimes there is only one, but when there are two they are tuned so that one is higher and one is lower.
  5. Tamalin 2 (lower pitched): a square frame drum held in the hands. Sometimes there is only one, but when there are two they are tuned so that one is higher and one is lower.
  6. Kpanlogo mi (3 drums): (1) the lead drum is tuned the highest; (2) Support 1 is tuned lowest; and (3) Support 2 is in between.

Form of Kpanlogo

Kpanlogo is a constantly evolving style of music-and-dance, with new lead variations emerging all the time. There is not usually a predetermined sequence of variations, but in general the music starts at a slow tempo and builds to a faster speed.

In a performance context, groups will create arrangements of movements and accompanying lead drumming, but in a traditional context, the lead drummer will just watch the dancers and improvise slight variations to complement their dance moves, to which the support drums respond.

Watch: Ghana Video

Listen and Learn: Interactive Audio Mixer

Using the interactive multitrack drumming mixer below, listen closely to what all 8 Kpanlogo ensemble parts sound like. Tempo is moderate for purposes of teaching and learning.

Isolate rhythmic parts and create different mixes by adjusting instrument levels — including soloing, muting and panning individual tracks. All instruments played by Francis Kofi Akotuah (pictured at top).

Close help window

 

Welcome to ThisWorldMusic's Audio Mixer!

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

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.

WATCH: Ghana Promo Video