A. Some Ghanaian Ensembles
We know that drums, idiophones and other musical instruments can be played together to make different types of music. We know also that a group of instruments for making music is called an ensemble. The ensemble takes its name from the main instrument. Here are some examples of ensembles.
(a) “Goge” Ensemble
In this ensemble we have the goge (the harp), metal flutes, tomtom (donno) and a large double-sided drum. At times the xylophone and gourd rattle are included. The goge ensemble is seen mostly among some communities in the Northern and Upper Regions. This ensemble usually performs on occasions such as funerals, marriages, outdooring, and enskinment of chiefs. The master instrument in the ensemble is the goge.
(b) Fontomfrom Ensemble
The main instruments that make up the fontomfrom ensemble are the dawuro, twenesin/kyenesin, paso, atumpan, and bommaa. The fontomfrom is mainly found among the Akan communities. It is performed on various occasions such as royal funerals to offer condolences and at durbars or processions during festivals. The atumpan (a pair of drums) is mainly used to send messages. The atumpan drummer, the okyerema, is the master drummer of the fontomfrom orchestra.
(c) Atsiagbeko Ensemble
The following are the musical instruments used by the atsiagbeko ensemble: atsimevu, songo, boba, lakleve, kidi, gong, and a rattle.
The atsiagbeko dance is performed mostly by the Ewe community. The ensemble performs on various occasions such as funerals, enstoolment of chiefs, and at durbars and festivals.
(d) Xylophone (Gyile) Ensemble
The Xylophone (gyile) ensemble is made up of the following musical instruments: ganggare, gyile, dalho, castanet, gourd rattle, dangles, and wubili.
The xylophone (gyile) ensemble is mainly found among some communities in the Northern and Upper Regions. This ensemble usually performs at social functions like marriages, durbars, outdooring, enskinment of chiefs, and at funerals.
The master instrument in the ensemble is the ‘gyile’ which is also known as the xylophone.
(e) Kpanlogo Ensemble
Another ensemble found in the Ga and Dangme communities is the ‘Kpanlogo’. In this ensemble we have the donno, tumpane, gong, castanet, rattle, and some other small drums which are usually held in the hand. This ensemble is very popular among the youth of these communities. The Kpanlogo ensemble performs on such occasions as outdooring (kpodziemo), enstoolment of chiefs, durbars, festivals, and at funerals.
B. Movements in Ghanaian Dances
The basic movements in our dances are simple. For example, in the dea dance, the dancers sing and stamp the ground with the right foot to go with the music. They then take a short light step forward with the left foot. Whilst dancing, the body is bent slightly to the right as the foot stamps the ground. They dance in rows as they move forward.
The dea dancer wears a buzzer on the right ankle and holds a sword in his right hand. The rhythmic noise from the buzzers helps the dancers to move according to time.
Unlike the dea dance, the basic movements in adowa and kete dances of the Akan are not simple. In these dances, hand and leg movements are combined with those of the various parts of the body. The dancers move their feet at regular intervals with their bodies tilted sideways to go with the movement of the feet. Meanwhile, the arms may be moving at a different pace.
In some dances, instead of moving the whole body in a simple rhythm, only the upper or lower part may be used. For example, in the nyindogo dance of the Dagomba, it is the muscles of the stomach that are moved, while the Lobi and Anlo use more of the upper part of the body.
There are also dances in which the hips or the legs are much more used than the rest of the body -for example, in Akom and Vongo dances the legs are sometimes raised to the knee level.
In addition to the basic movements, we have discussed other gestures and movements in dancing. These including shaking the body, stamping the feet, stooping or squatting, somersaulting, etc.
C. Expressions in Dancing
The music and the type of dance will tell the dancer how he should move his body. For example, the body should not be moved in such a way that it would imply an insult. Although the music is the same, male dancers tend to dance more vigorously than their female counterparts.
In addition to conveying messages, dances can be used during story telling to make the occasion lively.
Because the dance helps dancers to express what they feel, it is always concerned with the occasions. Sometimes, the dance may also be connected with something else in the main event. During occasions such as puberty rites, the type of dance performed by the “puberty” girl and others expresses joy and happiness, whilst at funerals, it expresses grief and sadness.
How a dancer performs depends on how the music is played. It is important for the dancer and the drummers to play their parts well.