Explore essential dimensions of the African civilization through the dance-drumming:

Dance-drumming Celebrates Life
Religious Culture
Military Culture
Social Culture
Polyrhtymic Organization
Drums And Drumming
Exotic Costumes
Dance Gahu Lesson Plan
Kusum Africa


Dance Gahu

Introduction to African Culture Through Music & Dance


The purpose of this lesson is to give students a basic understanding of various elements in West African Culture through the medium of a traditional music and dance from Ghana.

Background Information And Context:

Gahu is a popular secular dance-drumming among the Anlo-Ewe people of southeastern Ghana. It originated among the Gun-Gbe people of Ketornu in Benin. It was later introduced in southwestern Nigeria where Anlo-Ewe migrant fishermen adapted it from their Nigerian hosts. Whether in Benin, Nigeria or Ghana (three neighboring West African countries), Gahu is a popular communal entertainment performed whenever the community finds the excuse to celebrate life. Popular excuses to celebrate life include, weddings, naming ceremonies, puberty ceremonies, community festivals, communal entertainment such as parties and other social events.

Gahu in the two most popular Gbe languages of West Africa (Gun-Gbe and Ewe-Gbe) literally means an airplane; and it is a metaphor. The metaphor likens the collective energy produced by the rhythmic interlocking of drum, song and dance and the manner in which it transports participants/audience to unbelievable emotional highs to an airplane (gahu) taking off into the skies.


Dance-Drumming — The integration of drumming, dancing and singing as one activity.

Gankogui — A double clapperless bell, played with stick in a rhythm that functions as the main beat or the heartbeat that guides the performing community to be in sync with each other.

Boba — The lead drum that uses specific drum dialogues to guide the performance of Gahu choreographies.

Transitional Passage — a lead drum dialogue used to alert the participants before communicating choreographic information.

Choreographic Episodes — The collective energy produced by the rhythmic interlocking of drum, song and dance.

Drum Language — The drum rhythm, melody and/or song.


Tape Player, Taped traditional music, comfortable clothing for dancing, map of West Africa showing the countries of Ghana, Benin and Nigeria.


Before we begin the actual dance-drumming lesson, we will take an imaginary tour of a village dance-drumming event in West Africa. Through a discussion, we will place Dance Gahu in its traditional and historical context.

1. Warm Ups

Some basic dance warm ups and stretches.

2. Into

(Step 1) Participants will start the process of recreating Gahu by learning how to conceive and express the bell pattern and the main beat, the heartbeat and soul of Gahu.

(Step 2) Utilizing the bell pattern and the main beat scheme, the participant will learn how to conceive and express the basic movement of Gahu.

3. Through

(Step 3) We will use the basic movement and start developing a sample repertoire of episodes which we will chain in the performance of Gahu dance-drumming. Since these episodes are identified and led by the rhythm of Boba, the lead drum, we will learn them by the drum language.

(Step 3.a) Learning the structure and verbalization of the transitional passage or the lead drum dialogue used to alert the participants before communicating choreographic information.

(Step 3.b) Repertoire of Episodes — Learn the movements of a number of episodes and their appropriate drum language triggers.

(Step 3.c) Using the tape recorder, we will dance Gahu in the communal manner as it is done in a typical West African village.

(Step 4) We will end up the actual dance-drumming activity with a cool down session bringing our bodies down from the highs of a vigorous and physically demanding activity.

4. Beyond

Participants are given the opportunity to reflect on the Dance Gahu process. They will be encouraged to comment on the building block of our sample and repertoire of Gahu dance-drumming. They are free to contrast the developmental procedure of creating our sample Gahu dance-drumming and the method used in other dance forms.


Assessment is an integral part of the process: immediate feedback after the presentation of each step and through questions at the end.


Artistic Perception: The participants become aware that in West African dance-drumming tradition, the rhythmic interlocking of drum, song and dance, produces a collective energy. The drummers and dancers are responsible for the growth and direction of the collective energy. They also become aware that in the Dance Gahu process, when you are really listening, you create within yourself an "echo" of the drum.

Creative Perception: Participants have become aware that even though they were all doing the same movements each individual has their own self-expression that colors the movements.

Historical and Cultural Context: Participants have become aware of the significance of dance-drumming in West African communities and the process and the functions around which this activity is organized.

Aesthetic Valuing: Participants have experienced a communal artistic expression. Aesthetic valuing comes from the heart of each participant. The role of the teacher is to motivate and encourage participation. Participation in producing a collective energy in a communal forum is very empowering. Sometimes the value of this experience takes time to materialize.


The Dance Gahu process is an energetic experience. Writing a story about the cultures and people of West Africa can promote critical thinking and expression. Reading short stories from Africa can be a powerful tool in developing the joy of reading.

The study of the people and culture of West Africa, and their geography, languages, metaphors and other methods of communication would be reflected in other elements of the curriculum.