Agbadza finds its origin in the times of war. The Ewe people went through various times of war and oppression before settling down in the Volta Region of Ghana and in Southern Togo. In order to train their warriors to be ready for battle, the Ewes used various songs and dances to encourage the warriors. Through this a dance called Atrikpui was born. This dance later evolved to Agbadza, which is no longer used for war but rather in events that are more joyful.
The dance is usually played at funerals, weddings, and parties. Essentially, it is played at any occasion that called for an Ewe identity emblem, since this music is known by other ethnic groups to be uniquely Ewe. Everyone is welcome to join in the dance, unlike other Ewe dances, which sometimes are reserved for people of a certain age, religion, or gender. The dance is sometimes known as the “chicken dance” due to the bird-like motions required for the dance.
Instruments used in playing the Agbadza songs
1. Bell: It has a recurring phrase that establishes the tempo of the song and serves as a timeline for the rest of the ensemble.
2. Sogo: This is the ensemble leader drum. It indicates to the other drums what they are supposed to be playing. This drum also signals the dancers when they are supposed to be starting to dance, through the use of drumming language.
3. Kidi: This is the second drum in the ensemble. It communicates with the Sogo to create a conversation using drumming language.
4. Kagan: This is a support drum, which has a recurring rhythm throughout the performance that interacts with the bell to create a specific melody.
5. Rattle/ Axatse: This is a beaded-rattle that follows the rhythm of the timeline closely to complement the Agbadza song.
6. Handclaps: The handclaps in Agbadza are used to add human interaction to the song and create a dense musical texture of high energy.
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