Hand-forged from thick iron and struck with a wooden stick, GANKOGUI BELLS, also known by other names like the Agogo, play the “key rhythm” in West African drum ensembles. The key rhythm is a specific pattern that doesn’t change throughout the piece, providing a reference point for the other instruments. As African-Music-Sarfari.com’s introduction to gankogui bells notes, “The bell does not just mark the main beat of the rhythm. It’s a bit more complicated than that..While the bell repeats a 4/4 pattern three times, the drums may repeat a 3/4 rhythm four times. So, instead of a common beat, we should rather call it a relation.”
Traditional GANKOGUI BELLS are actually two different bells attached to one another, with a smaller bell tuned approximately one octave higher than the larger. The bell player can create a number of different tones. According to Virtual Instrument Museum, “there are three syllables referring to the different strokes applied to the gankogui: tin (rebounding shot on the large bell), go (rebounding shot on the small bell), and ka (shot pressly firmly into the small bell).” (More: Hear a simple gankogui bell pattern on its own | Listen to the gankogui bells keeping the key rhythm in a Ewe drum ensemble.)
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