Lobi Musicians: Kakraba

Mobile_29_April_09_015Kakraba Lobi was born in Kalba Suru in the Lobil Brifo and Dagara area of Upper West Region of Ghana.
As a child Kakraba was taught how to play the pentatonic wooden gyil xylophone by his father. The gyil xylophone occupies a central place in community life and is played at weddings, funerals and festival dances. The instruments are played alone, in pairs, or in ensembles with singers and drummers. In the 1950s Kakraba went to Accra, where he performed in programs for Radio Ghana and in 1957 he met Professor Nketia, who offered him a teaching position at the Institute of African Studies where he was a full-time teacher until 1987. Over the years, he has been a guest lecturer in Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, the U.S. and Africa, which has resulted in creating hundreds of gyil disciples worldwide, especially in Japan. In 2000 Kakraba released the ‘Song of Legaa’ CD followed in 2004 by the ‘Song of Niira’. In both he was accompanied and produced by Valery Naranjo and Barry Olsen and the CD was released on the Kaleidoscope Sound label in the United States. Kakraba’s son,S.K., has also become an excellent gyil player and is a member of Hewale Sounds.

Lobi Musical Instruments: Gyile

14_Key_ProThe instrument is made with 14 wooden keys of an African hardwood called liga attached to a wooden frame, below which hang calabash gourds. Spider web silk covers small holes in the gourds to produce a buzzing sound, and antelope sinew and leather are used for the fastenings. The instrument is played by striking the keys with wooden mallets with rubber heads. The instrument is generally played by men, who learn to play while young, however, there is no restriction on gender. The gyil is usually played in pairs, accompanied by a calabash gourd drum called a kuor. It can also be played by one person with the drum and the stick part as accompaniment, or by a soloist.


Lobi: Background

Lobi is a loose term which refers to several closely related ethnic groups that comprise roughly 7% of the Burkinabe population including the main Lobi clan Birfor, Dagara, Dyan, Gan, and Tenbo/Loron. Although traditions may vary slightly between clans, they share a common sense of identify and traits such as living in distinctive mud defensive compounds, using poisoned bows and arrows to fend off attackers, a sharing of initiation rites and animist beliefs that vigorously pay reverence to the spiritual world, families that are often determined by female lineage, and their craftsmenship of wooden statues which are often worshipped.

The name Lobi originates from two Lobiri words lou (meaning forest) and bi (meaning children), literally “Children of the forest” who settled initially on the left bank of the Mounhoun River dividing Burkina and Ghana who ventured into Burkina Faso. The Mounhoun is important in Lobi myth and symbolizes a dividing line between this world and the next, similar to the River Stzx of Roman mythology. The Lobi crossed the Mounhoun centuries ago from east to west and settled in the lands and brought with them deep animist beliefs and superstition. According to Lobi legend, the spirits of the deceased must return across the river to rejoin their honorable ancestors in the ancient world. The banks of the Mounhoun are used in initiation rites and fish and animals in the river are considered sacred.

Ewe Dances: Adzogbo dances

Adzogbo originated from Benin (Dahomey) as a Dzovu (spiritual/religious) music and dance). It was called Dzovu, in that during any performance, the men participants would display their dzoka (juju/charms) especially the so-called “love charms” to seduce women. When this music was brought to Togo and later Ghana in the late 19th century, its function changed. The southeastern Ewe of Ghana now performs it for entertainment during festivals and other social occasions. The women’s’ section or phase of the dance is called Kadodo.

Ewe Dances: Atsiagbekor Dance

Atsiagbekor is among the oldest traditional dances of the Ewe-speaking people of Southern Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Originally a war dance performed after battle when the warriors returned to the village, it is now performed on many social occasions. One of the outstanding features of the dance is the interaction between the master drummer and the dancers: ‘every rhythmic theme played on the master drum has a corresponding sequence of dance movements which is timed to precisely match the drum rhythms” (Locke, 1978). Atsiagbekor songs constitute an important heritage of Ewe oral tradition. Most of the songs contain historical references to their chiefs, war leaders, migration stories, themes relating to the invincibility of the Ewes against their enemies, themes of loyalty, bravery, and death etc. To watch an Atsiagbekor performance today in Ghana is to watch scenes, which may have their actual origins in battles that were fought as the Ewes trekked through hostile countries in search of peace.

Ewe Dances: Agbadza Dance

Agbadza is among the oldest musical types performed by the Southern Ewe of Ghana, Togo, Benin, and parts of Southwestern Nigeria. Agbadza is derived from an older war dance known as Atrikpui. As a social and recreational music and dance, its performance is open to everybody in the community, irrespective of class, age, sex, and religion. There are other varieties of this musical type that have different names: Kini, Akpoka, Ageshie, and Agba– tempo being the main distinguishing factor among these varieties. There are five sections or movements in Agbadza performance: 1. Banyinyi- a short introductory piece that is performed as a prayer to the gods and the ancestors, 2. Vutsortsor- the main dance section, 3. Adzo- a less-vigorous dance section, during which only the master drum, Sogo, accompanied by Gankogui and Axatse are used, 4. Hatsatsa- song cycle, during which topical, historical, philosophical, and reflective songs are performed accompanied by Gankogui and Atoke, 5. Vutsortsor- another round of the main dance section, which may last for several hours.

Ewe Dances: Boborbor Dance

The joy on achieving Independence in Ghana was expressed in various ways by the entire populace of the country. This “new life” envisaged, resulted in the emergence of several new musical types. These new creations relating to the “freedom” to be enjoyed through the said independence have roots in the popular Ghanaian Highlife. Boborbor is one of such musical creations of the period 1947 – 1957. Also known as Agbeyeye or Akpese; Boborbor originated from Kpando in the Volta Region of Ghana through the ingenuity of the late Francis Cudjoe Nuatro popularly called F.C. Boboobo is presently the most popular social music and dance of the central and northern Ewes of Ghana and Togo. It is generally performed at funerals and other social occasions. Boborbor music and dance ceremony is syncretic in character and it is performed principally in a circular formation.

A Brief History of Ghana

Year 00AD

500 The modernGhana was inhabited in pre-colonial times by a number of ancient kingdoms, including the Ga-Dagames on the eastern coast, The Ashanti are thought to originate from the Far East of Africa from the ancient Sudanic empires via the Ivory Coast, where they still inhabit. Other suggest that they travelled with the Ewes, Ga-Agdambes, Yoruba’s, Ibos and Hausas. The Ashantis inhabit the central and Southern Ghana. Ashanti in land, Fante along the coast and inland. Farming began earliest on the southern tips of the Sahara, eventually giving rise to village settlements.

The ancient Empire of Ghana that once ruled territory in the area of Mauritania, Mali and Senegal.

C Akan migrants moved southward then founded several nation-states including the first great Akan empire of the Bono which is now known as the Bron Ahafo region in Ghana.

The Guan are believed to have begun to migrate from the Mossi region of modern Burkina around A.D. 1000. Moving gradually through the Volta valley in a southerly direction, they created settlements along the Black Volta, throughout the Afram Plains, in the Volta Gorge, and in the Akwapim Hills before moving farther south onto the coastal plains.

13 C
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.Gas’ settled in Ghana.
The Dagombas. Thought to originate from the Far East of Africa from the ancient Sudanic empires via the Ivory Coast, where they still inhabit. Other suggest that they travelled with the Ewes, Ga-Agdambes, Yorabas, Ibos and Hausas. The Ashantis inhabit the central and Southern Ghana.
1481 the first Costal Fort was built at Elmina, to trade in gold, ivory and slaves.
15C Trade with European states flourished after contact with the Portuguese in the 15th century,

15C Mid
The Ewe occupy southeastern Ghana and the southern parts of neighboring Togo and Benin. On the west, the Volta separates the Ewe from the Ga-Adangbe, Ga, and Akan. Subdivisions of the Ewe include the Anglo (Anlo), Bey (Be), and Gen on the coast, and the Peki, Ho, Kpando, Tori, and Ave in the interior. Oral tradition suggests that the Ewe immigrated into Ghana before the midfifteenth century. Although the Ewe have been described as a single language group, there is considerable dialectic variation. Some of these dialects are mutually intelligible, but only
with difficulty.

Dutch had joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi.

1637 Dutch
captured Elmina Castle from the Portuguese and Axim in 1642

Ashanti Empire         First as a loose network and eventually as a centralized kingdom with an advanced, highly-specialized bureaucracy centred in Kumasi.

English, Danes and Swedes joined in by the mid, largely British merchants named the area the Gold Coast, later the name given to the English colony, while French merchants, impressed with the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named the area to the west “Côte d’Ivoire,” or Ivory Coast. The Gold Coast became the highest concentration of European military architecture outside of Europe.

Asante Confederacy
State formation in the pre-colonial period. Competition to acquire land for cultivation, to control trade routes, or to form alliances for protection also promoted group solidarity and state formation. The creation of the union that became the Asante confederacy in the late seventeenth century is a good example of such processes at work in Ghana’s past.

18 & 19C
The Ashanti Empire which was one of the most advanced states in sub-Sahara Africa in the 18-19th centuries. It is said that at its peak, the King of Ashanti could field 500,000 troops.

Late 19C Dutch and the British were the only traders left.

Dutch withdrew and Britain made the Gold Coast a protectorate.

Ghana was organized as the Gold Coast, under British colonial rule.

March the 6th Ghanas’ Independence from United Kingdom.  The First Sub-Saharan nation to achieve independence. Gold Coast become Ghana. Kwame Nkrumah became the first president of Ghana. He merged the dreams of both Marcus Garvey and the celebrated African-American scholar Du Bois, into the formation of the modern day Ghana. Ghana’s principles of freedom and justice, equity and free education for all, irrespective of ethnic background, religion or creed, borrow from Kwame Nkrumah’s implementation of Pan-Africanism.

Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown by a military coup.

Jerry Rawlings military coup, suspending the constitution and the banning over political parties.
1992 A new constitution, restoring multi-party politics. Rawlings was elected as president in the free and fair elections of that year and again won the elections 1996 to serve his second term.
2007 Ghana’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating fifty years of independence since 6/3/57.

Atta Mills took office as president, the second time power in the country has been transferred from one legitimately elected leader to another, securing Ghana’s status as a stable democracy.

The Culture of Ghana

Ghana’s culture is the life and history of its different tribal /ethnic groups.

The major ethnic groups are:

  •  Akan 50%
  • Mole-Dagbon 15.5%
  • Ewe 12%
  • Ga-Dangme 7.5%
  • Guan 4%
  • Gurma 4%
  • Gurunsi 2.5%
  • Mande-Busanga 1%
  • other tribes 1.5%
  • other (Hausa, Zabarema,Fulani) ) 2%

(2000 census)

Each Ethnic group is broken down into many different sub ethnic groups all with there own different language/ dialect and culture.


Presently, Ghana has:

  • 18,530 primary schools
  • 8,850 junior secondary schools
  • 900 senior secondary schools
  • 28 training colleges
  • 20 technical institutions
  • 4 diploma-awarding institutions
  • 6 public universities and over 10 private universities.

Most Ghanaians have relatively easy access to primary and secondary education. These numbers can be contrasted with the single university and handful of secondary and primary schools that existed at the time of independence in 1957. Ghana’s spending on education has varied between 28 and 40 percent of its annual budget in the past decade. All teaching is done in English, Ghana’s official

Languages and Dialects.

Within thoses ehtnic groups there are more than 250 languages and dialects are spoken. English is the country’s official language and predominates government, business, education ancd the media. Nine languages have the status of
government-sponsored languages:

  • Akan          (Ashanti, Fante, Akuapem, Akyem, Kwahu)
  • Dagaare/Waale     Spoken in Upper Western Region
  • Dangbe      Spoken in Greater Accra
  • Dagbane    Spoken in Northern Region
  • Ewe            Volta Region
  • Ga               Greater Accra Region
  • Gonja         Northern Region
  • Kasem         Upper Eastern Region
  • Nzema        Western Region
  • Hausa although not an official language, is spoken among Ghana’s Muslims, who comprise about 14% of the population.

    There are many non Government Sponcerned Languages:

  • Adele               Volta Region
  • Anufo/Chokosi   Northern Region
  • Buli                    Upper East Region – Sandema
  • Bimoba                Northern Region –  Bunkp urugu
  • Birifor                Upper East Region and Northern Region Bilema & Danvar
  • Bassari               Northern Region
  • Chumburung        Northern Region and Volta Region
  • Frara                 Upper East Region Bolgatanga
  • Gikyode/Akyode Volta Region – Shiare
  • Hanga                 Northern Region
  • Konkomba            Northern Region Saboba
  • Kusaal                 Upper East Region – Bawku
  • Kasem                  Upper East Region – Navrongo
  • Koma                  Upper East Region – Yipabongo
  • Buen/Lelem         Volta Region – Jasikan & Bodada
  • Mampruli            Northern Region -Nalerigu
  • Mo/Deg               Northern Region  – New Longoro & Bole Dist.
  • Naraanra            Banda Ahenkro
  • Nkonya                Volta Region – Akloba & Wurupong
  • Ntrubo/Delo     Volta Region – Pusupu
  • Nawuri                Northern Region –  Kitare
  • Sisaala               Upper Western Region – Tumu
  • Tampulma            Northern Region
  • Vagla                   Northern Region
  • Wali                     Upper Western Region