Basket Makers

The Instrument Makers

In the following photos you can see the skilled instrument makers who supply many of the instruments we use. You can follow the process of creating a Djembe from raw materials and see how the Xylophone is constructed.

Christopher Doozie’s Xylophone workshop in Mpe-Asem, Accra,  Ghana.

The Late Louis Botchway and son Francis Botchway’s Drum workshop in Madina, Accra, Ghana.

Kasena Nankeni: Dances


A dance performed by the Kasena Nankeni people of Paga and Navrongo in the Upper East Region of Ghana. In the olden days, it was performed at funerals but today, even though it still maintains this function, it can also be seen on most social occasions excluding marriage ceremonies. Movements in Nagla reflect the spirit of togetherness.

Kasena Nankeni: Culture

The Bolga Basket:

Bolga_BasketsTEA (spoken Te – A ) basket with handle is produced in Bolgatanga.

Two types of weaving are done (and most weavers only know one of them): It is double weaving (two uprights and thin straw) and single weaving (one upright and thicker straw). If the basket has reached its size a mouth has to be done. Here uprights are combined and bundled round. The handle is woven inside that mouth, is combined in the middle and bundled round with straw. The end of the straws on the baskets are cut with a blade. The TEA is ready.

Now there is till the leatherwork to be one on the basket: The handle is sawn around with goatleather, which increases the comfort of carrying a basket and also increases its stability and durability.

The Bolga Basket Weaver:

Mobile_1st_may_09_029In north-east of Ghana, near to the border to Burkina Faso, Bolgatanga is situated, where the Frafra are the original settlers. (Scientifically spoken the Frafra are a larger ethical group, and the weavers belong to the smaller tribe of the Gurunsi. In Ghana however the weavers call themselves Frafras.) In this area about 120.000 people are living and not in every house or compound families or villages weaving is a predominant vocation.

Whilst agriculture – despite the poor soils of the Sahel zone – is the major occupation (millet, guinea corn, maize, groundnuts, beans, cattle and animal rearing) about 4000 people do weaving as a part time or even full-time occupation.
Most of them however see weaving as a side or additional occupation, as agriculture for self-sufficiency is their major profession. During the main farming season, weaving is neglected a little to give enough time for the harvest.

Out of the 4000 weaver we from Fairtrade Producer Society (FPS) co-operate and work together with 980 (survey and group registration 2002). They are from three villages: Gambigo, Nyarga and Sumbrungu.

In the individual compounds the weaver groups are organised like a family is together. To the outside, meaning towards the market and also our man Abu Sadik or Accraboy they are represented by their leaders. The Leaders – different for men and women – are the link to the market and are selected from the groups (families, between 5 and 30 people) themselves. Theirs is a service function: negotiate price, collect straw, collect money, transport baskets and straw, serve as communication link, such as orders, quantities, colours, style.  In case of discrepancies the leader is sacked.

Dagaare: Musical Instruments

The Gyil:

The gyil, also known as xylophone, bala or balafone are tunned to the pentatonic scale. In Ghana there are three different The gyil is the primary instrument of three differnt tribe in Ghana; the Dagaare, the Lobi and the Sasaala. The instrument is traditionally made with 14 or 18 wooden keys of an African hardwood, called liga, or the Shea Butter Tree attached to a wooden frame, below which hang resonaters made fronm calabash and gourd. On the resonators spider web silk covers small holes in the gourds to produce a buzzing sound, nowadays that spiders silk web is replaced by rizzala paper, plastic bags or commonly now a delicatesant paper bag or airmail envelope which containes both paper and plastic. Antelope sinew and leather, or nylon rope are used to hold the notes together, while cow skin is bound around the frame to secure its sturdyness.The instrument is played by striking the keys with wooden beaters with rubber heads, the rubber heads are traditionally from the rubber tree, but now more commonly from truck tyres.
The gyil is usually played in pairs, accompanied by a drum.  It can also be played by one  person with the drum and the stick part as accompaniment, or by a soloist.


The Xylophone (Gyil) in Ghana is mostly played in the Northern Region by the Dagaare, Sisaala and the Lobi people, whose territory also extends into Burkina Faso.In certain areas the instrument is considered to be scared and played only for funerals, but generally xylophones are used for all kind of musical occasions. (weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, popular events and any large gatherings). The Dagaara still play it today as a symbol of unity during gatherings to entertain the public.Xylophone making is considered sacred and for generations had been known to some very few families only. The knowledge has been passed from father to son by way of initiation. The Dagaars believe in the concept of One Allmighty God far away somewhere, who is in charge of all living things and beings on Earth and responsible for their actions. Therefore in ritual ceremonies tunes are played that are not to be used for ordinary occassions.

The Lobi Gyile.

Kakraba Lobi

The Sasaala Gyile

The Dagare Gyile


Aaron Sukra Bebe

The Modern Xylophone:

The modern xylophone, is a complex assemble of various natural and industrious materials: Redwood is used in constructing the frame.  Cowhide and other skins  are cut into stripes and used in tying the frame or wooden structure together. Gourds are selected for size and then tuned to the exact pitch of the not they are hung under the key to resonate the sound producing a more fuller note. Hardwood (dead Shea Butter trees or Mahogany) is used for the keys. It is kilndried or seasoned and then cut to sizes of the bars. After Suspending it  over an open pit, which serves as a resonator for tuning  the back of the ends. The axe is used to cut out from the centre  to lower the pitch and cut from the end of the keys to raise the pitch. The scale is traditionaly pentatonic, in the modern xylophone the penatonic scale is kept but it is tunned towards  G – A – C – D – E.
The xylophone tuning is a rather relative one ( not getting the perfect C or other key) but rather it equalises the intervals.The keys are assembled on the frame with the gourds by a rope from  twisted antelope skin. Or more commonly now nylon rope.The wood for the keys is rare and can only been found in the Savannah and grassland zones of Northern Ghana and some areas that extend to Burkina Faso. For a tree to be used it must have died roughly five years previously, say in a bush fire. It will then be cut down cut into planks and the placed in a home made kilm for 5 days untill the moisture and all from the wood is gone.
The beaters or mallets had traditionally heads from thin stripes of rubber from the rubber tree, wound round the ends of a moulded piece of rounded wood, which is 30 cm long and 2-3 cm diameter thick to have a strong hold in the hand.  The modern version has a circle cut from a truck tyre.

Music by xylophone:

Xylophone is most commonly played in pairs, but can be a solo instrument or as part of a larger group., The two people sit facing eachother, a short distance apart. One playing a lead part the other a more rythmicly and harmonically repetative support part. People learn through hearing the music at a young age, so when they start to actually play they know the music in there head and body before they begin to play. They would play the support parts for many years befor beginning to playing the lead.

Christopher Doozie, the xylophone maker, player and teacher:

Hailing from Jirapa in the Upper West Region of Ghana, Christopher developed interest in playing xylophone already at the age of 6. His father then taught him how to make xylophone when he was 12. By copying his father Christopher mastered and his father initiated him at the age of 15. But also his father stressed on education, so Christopher became a professional and then came to Accra after his Secondary school education when he was 20 years. He then studied and  performed as an instructor at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Legon, Ghana. So he came into the contact of „Modern Xylophone and Music“. He had several appointments, including the National Symphony Orchestra. In 1990 he left the academic field and built up his workshop to construct xylophones.

Dagaare: Dances


One of the oldest traditional dances of the Dagaare speaking people of the Upper west Region of Ghana. Bawaa is a ritual and ceremonial dance performed to celebrate the beginning and end of the rainy season, good harvest, New Year and other social events.Bamaaya
Bamaaya, meaning, “The river (valley) is wet”, is the most popular social music and dance of the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana. It began as a religious musical performance, but now functions during funerals, festivals, national day celebrations, and other social occasions. Dancing the Bamaaya requires a lot of waist movement and twisting. The maiden name for this music and dance, Tubankpeli, is now the main dance movement. Originally, only men took part in the dance while the women would sing, shout praises, and encourage the dancers. Now, Bamaaya is for both genders.

Ga: Culture


They live along the coast of Ghana around the capital city Accra, towards the Togo border, as well as in the hills and mountains north of the Coast.


Ga Priests are servants of the Gods and interrupter of the will of the gods to the people.

National cult is Kple. One of their Gods. Music history can be derived from Kple songs.


The are many festivals throughout the year the most famous of which is ‘Homowo’  The story comes from the history of the Gas’ migration to Ghana. The Ga migration to the West Coast of Africa was a long one.  Along the way they experienced much famine and suffering, but because they helped each other, they survived. Later, when their harvests were bountiful, they held a feast at which they mocked and jeered at hunger and the hard times that had plagued them.

Traditional Power:

The smallest social unit is the home – ‘we’. The biggest social unit is the ‘Kasi’ – the male line. The political head of the ‘Kasi’ is the ‘asafoatse’ –the sub cheif. They were traditionally a theocracy, their only leaders being priests assisted by the elders. The present chieftaincy system of rule being borrowed from the Akan model


Within their music they have also taken in the external influence of both the Akans and the Ewes.  Using the Akan and Ewe drums and music as their own. Cult music  Kple, Kpa and Apon. Recreational Music   Sonte, Oge, Gome, Kolomashie, Konkoma and Kpanlogo.


Dangbe and Ga


They were farmers, fishermen, salt miners, blacksmiths, potters, weavers, bead makers and hunters and hunters. All these professions are still found but being around the developing capital, commerce has taken over a major aspect of there economic ventures.

Ga: Dances


Gome is one of the oldest musical types performed by the coastal Ga of Ghana, which was introduced by Accra fishermen from the Fernando Po Islands in the early eighteenth century. Originally, Gome was performed exclusively by fishermen after their expeditions to celebrate their catch. Other occupational groups, especially artisans, also eventually adopted this music and dance as a form of entertainment. Presently, Gome is performed by all categories of people– young and old, male and female, on all social occasions


Kpanlongo is the most recent of all Ga recreational musical types, an offshoot of Gome, Oge, Kolomashie, and Konkoma. Referred to as “the dance of the youth,” Kpanlongo started during the wake of Ghana’s Independence as a musical type for entertainment in Accra. Kpanlongo is presently performed at life-cycle events, festivals, and political rallies.

  • Instruments
  • Slit Bell – Nono
  • Double Bell – Nononta
  • Pod Bell – Dodompo
  • Lead Drum – Atswereshi
  • Support Drums – Atswereshi x 2
  • Frame Drums – Tamlali x 1 or 2
  • Bass Drum – Gome

The Kpanlogo dance was invented by Otoo Lincoln. He was told an Ansee folk story by his Grandfather. Kpanlogo, Mma Mma and Algodzan were the names of three triplets girls. Their father was the cheif and said, how ever could guess their names could marry them. So a man went to their home pretending to be a mad man asking for water, he met the girls and learnt their names as they called to each other. To remember them he kept singing to himself ‘Kp. Mma. Al.’ And of course he married the girls. Otoo heard the story in 1956 when he was 15. He used to tell it dancing and singing to his brothers and sisters, a friend used to drum along as they liked the music and dance and we created our own version of highlife around 1962. The feeling of the music originated from music played by his father from Oge , Liberian music a sort of slow kpanlogo. I mixed this Oge with high life and rock and roll to produce the feeling in Kpanlogo.

In 1962 the Arts Council, banned its playing as one of the beats made the body move in an indecent way. They called Otoo in for a meeting. Otoo said that it ………………… By 1965 Kpanlogo had become so popular that 50+ groups performed it to the head of state Nkrumah.

Kpanlogo was seen as a dance from the youth, arising from the streets of Accra soon after Ghana’s independence, and symbolised the youth and independence of a young nation and so was taken on and played at funerals, state occasions and became an anthem for the ruling party at the time. Up to now its popularity remains hi. There are countless Kpanlogo performing groups, playing for pleasure and at all social and state occasion.


Kpatsa is the principal traditional entertainment music and dance of the Dangme of Ghana, in West Africa. The dance itself involves sideways and forward shuffling movements, making use of short, brisk steps with the body slightly bent. The dance steps move the dancer either diagonally or backwards. With arms bent in front of the body, the right leg steps in concert with the movement of the right arm while the left leg steps at the same time as the left arm; while one foot remains flat on the ground, the heel of the other foot is lifted off the ground.

Ga: History

The Ga- Adagmes migrated from Nigeria through Benin and Togo, settling on the coast of Ghana around the 13th Century.
They live along the coast of Ghana around the capital city Accra, towards the Togo border, as well as in the hills and mountains north of the Coast.
They were farmers, fishermen, salt miners, blacksmiths, potters, weavers, bead makers and hunters and hunters. All these professions are still found, but being around the developing capital, commerce has taken over a major aspect of their economic ventures.