Bells play an important role in African music. They are often played alongside drums, or they can control a percussive rhythm without support from other instruments. Shapes and sounds differ throughout the African continent, but most bells are hand-forged by local blacksmiths in the traditional style.
Gankogui Double Bell
The gankogui double bell, or agogo, is a type of bell played with a wooden stick. The instrument features two bells welded together with a holding grip, with each bell differing in size and tone. It plays a central role in the music of the Ewe ethnic group of Ghana and parts of Togo. According to African- music-safari.com, the pattern played on the gankogui is the key to Ewe music, providing the rhythm that every other instrument follows.
The adodo bell is a metal rod with a cluster of small bells forged to each end. The adodo, or cluster bell, is commonplace throughout Ghana. The instrument can be shaken or hit with a stick.
The apitua bell, also known as a banana bell, is common throughout West Africa. It is made from hand-forged iron and resembles a small boat or, as its other name suggests, a banana. The bell is held in the palm of one hand, and sound is produced by striking it with a metal stick. According to gandharvaloka.com, the holding hand encloses the body between the beats and so creates special effects.
The grello bell, or pod bell, is a type of finger bell. The bell is held in the palm of the hand and struck with a metal ring placed on the musician's thumb. It is played in a similar way to castanets.
The avaga bell is a round-shaped bell tapering to a handle at one end, according to Africastreetkids.com. The bell comes in various sizes, but the basic form is generally the same. Larger bells act more like simple gongs, while smaller versions often have an iron clapper inside. The instrument is struck with a stick made from metal or wood.
African ankle bells often add to a musical performance. These bells are worn by dancers in many parts of Africa. During certain performances, especially those accompanied by jumping or stamping dances, ankle bells enhance the overall musical rhythm.