to African Culture Through Music & Dance
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.
Information And Context:
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
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
The integration of drumming, dancing and singing as
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.
The lead drum that uses specific drum dialogues to
guide the performance of Gahu choreographies.
Passage a lead drum dialogue used to alert the
participants before communicating choreographic information.
Episodes The collective energy produced by the
rhythmic interlocking of drum, song and dance.
Language The drum rhythm, melody and/or song.
Player, Taped traditional music, comfortable clothing for
dancing, map of West Africa showing the countries of Ghana,
Benin and Nigeria.
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.
basic dance warm ups and stretches.
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.
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) 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.
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.
3.b) Repertoire of Episodes Learn the movements of
a number of episodes and their appropriate drum language triggers.
3.c) Using the tape recorder, we will dance Gahu in the communal
manner as it is done in a typical West African village.
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.
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
is an integral part of the process: immediate feedback after
the presentation of each step and through questions at the
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.