Kutiro-Balafon-Sabar = Drums Ensemble…

****Music of the Mande –  Gambian Tantango=Kutiro Drumming…

The Mandinka Drum Ensemble consists of three Drums. The leader plays the long Sabaro, assisted by two Drummers playing the Kutiro – small Kutirindingo and larger Kutiriba. Drum troupes play for recreational dances and various festivities. The Mandinka, descendants of the Mande peoples of western Africa, now reside primarily in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau. Among the Mande people in general, rhythm expressed as drumming is linked with all forms of movement, be it dancing, wrestling, procession, or agricultural labor. 

There is a defined hierarchy within the ensemble where the Sabaro takes the fore, both musically, and socially. A Drummer will begin a long apprenticeship, usually starting in youth, gradually working from Kutiros to Sabaro as his skill increases. The Tantango ensemble is employed in many life-cycle rituals circumcisions, fertility, agricultural and recreational, wrestling events.  The most prominent such event is recreational dance Bantaba and singing held in a wide-open space in the center of a village or at a crossroads in town. Participants amass in circles which can vary in size: sometimes with barely enough room for dancers, at other times as large as city blocks with rented folding chairs placed along the sides of the street for guests. The Bantaba events begin with a signature recreational dance – Lenjengo, danced primarily by women and girls, and which typically includes a collection of rhythms, songs, and dances leading up to the “Lenjengo” a fully engaged dance-music gathering that could go on indefinitely. The term Tantango is often used to refer to any of these Drums, and sometimes the ensemble is called a Seruba ensemble after the name of an important dance event in which they are played. The ensemble is used throughout the Gambia and Cassamance as far east as Tambacounda.

Evidence from neighboring Drumming traditions suggests that the Mandinka may have fashioned their Drums after models used in their new Senegambian homeland or even acquired them there. Both the name and the shape of the Mandinka Sabaro and Wolof Sabar Drums are very similar, and the method of attaching the head to the body is the same for these two as well as for the other Mandinka and Wolof Drums. But in contrast to the Mandinka ensemble, fixed at three Drums and rarely augmented, Wolof Sabar-based ensembles consist of more Drums and can accommodate large numbers of players. In the case of celebrations with many participants, the Mandinka ensemble is still not augmented; rather, many ensembles play for smaller groups within the larger crowd. In addition to Wolof influence, there is also an exchange of rhythms between Jola and Mandinka, even though the Jola play the very different Bugarabu, a group of three of four large Drums played by a single person with bare hands. The practice of wearing iron jingles (Jawungo) around the wrist is widespread among Mandinka and Jola Drummers as well as Bala.

Each Drum is played with one hand and a short stick approximately of nine inches long; the two Kutiro Drums are sometimes played with both bare hands. The minimal vocabulary necessary to play the Drums consists of two different hand strokes and two different stick strokes. The hand strokes are an open bounce (kun) where a clear tone is produced, and closed damped stroke (Ba) where the fingers press on the head and remain there. The stick strokes are a bounce (Din) and a press (Da). With two hand sounds and two stick sounds on each Drum, a strikingly full orchestral sound can be created by just the two Kutiro Drums.

As a village rather than urban event, Lenjengo can be contrasted in organization with analogous urban Jembe Drumming (Dununba)events in Mali and Guinea. In Lenjengo a long-term compositional process is at work with a specific sequence of pieces. While the Sabaro Drummer  plays the phrases linked with the entrances, exits, and other movements of the dancers, the two Kutiro Drummers play the indentifying parts that are unique to each dance.

The stage presentation Mandinka Drumming and dancing has a history that is now over half a century old. New traditions have developed, moving Drumming in a variety of directions. Although some of these traditions flourished abroad, the general recognition of Africa as a wellspring of a deeply entrenched culture of drumming and dancing still operates. The number, diversity, depth, and uniqueness of Drumming traditions in Africa are astounding. So is the musical sophistication and power that can be routinely achieved by a small ensemble of instruments with a limited palette of sounds.

***Drum Call – The Drum call begins all ceremonies. The Drums speak the opening prayer and request blessings for the dance ceremony to begin. The purpose of the drum call is to contain the spirits that would normally be invoked through the dances. The drum call is also called “Baque.” Each ethnic group has its own “Baque,” and within each ethnic group every family has its own special rhythms that are passed down from generation to generation. 

Forango: Sitick 9″ long … Jawungo = Bell – Iron Rattles … Kusango – Peg …(5″Long Hole -5/8″)  Bora or Bisango – Beard or Skirt for Sabaro… Minango – Antelope Skin… Fasango – To Lace… Manduka – Mallet…

“Sabaro = 6  – 7″ Diameter 25 – 27″ Long…(4 1/4″) Kutiriba = 9  – 10″  Diameter 15 – 17″ Long…(4 1/2″) Kutirindingo = 7 – 8″ Diameter 12 – 14″ Long…(4″)

Griot, Jaly, or Ayan (keepers of African oral traditions) dies, they literally take libraries of African music and dance to the grave where it is entombed and lost to the world forever. Since the music and dance of Africa is largely an oral tradition that is verbally passed down from one generation to the next, sheet music is not available. Younger generations of Africans no longer practice or know the traditional music and dance of their Ancestors, therefore, African music and dance is an endangered species. 

                     ***The  African Balafon:  Listen – Feel & Move…

    An instrument known to have existed during the Mali Empire, the Balafon has been and still is popular in West Africa. Its name has a Manding origin but the name varies in some parts like Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Balafon means the “act of playing the Bala,” with “Balan” corresponding to the instrument, while “fo” a verb meaning “to play” in the Malinke language. Guinea’s Susu and Malinke peoples, as well as the Manding people dwelling in Senegal, Mali, and Gambia are the popular users of the instrument. Balafon traditions were also recorded in Chad, Cameroon, and around the Congo BasinIn Ancient times, the Balafon is considered a sacred instrument that is exclusive to trained and skilled caste members. It was stored in a temple for safekeeping and can only be played at certain traditional and ritual occasions such as funerals, weddings, and festivals. Not to mention that the Balafon has to be purified first before being played.

According to one of the Mandingo myths, the first inhabitant of the Earth coming down from the sky was a blacksmith. It is certainly not by chance that the Balafon played an important part in the history of the accession of the kingdom of Mali. Castes formed, and among them the blacksmith was found at the center of all craft activities and became powerful. Without him there would be no weapons for hunting, nor farming implements, nor cooking utensils. He was master of fire and wood. Traditionally, it was he who sculpted the shell of the Djembe, or the slats of the Balafon.  The Bala-Fola’s gesture is the same as the blacksmith’s. Beating with the stick is the same movement as with the hammer and the slat replaces the anvil. Everything seems to indicate that the first Balafon players were smiths.

 Amongst thousands of percussion instruments, there is an important family, the mallet instruments. Xylophones, vibraphones, marimbas,  have a common Ancestor – the African Bala. The culture of Balafon music is highly developed in the countries south of the Sahara desert and the tropical rain forest.  With the ethnic groups like the Senoufos, Bobos, Miankans, Lobis,  Toussiens, Samogos, Gouins or Tourakans (Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana) a large Bala can have up to 21 slats. Normally, the Balafon is tuned from the lowest to the highest note, usually in a pentatonic chord (five tones), like, for example, the black mallets on a piano keyboard. Nowadays, “western” chords can be found as well, like diatonic and chromatic. But at all times, African musicians have known how to cope with influences coming from abroad in an own, original style.

Gum-rubber mallets on a balafon: A Balafon can be either fixed-key or free-key. The Balafon is generally capable of producing 18 to 21 notes, though some are built to produce many fewer notes. Balafon keys are traditionally made from Béné wood, dried slowly over a low flame, and then tuned by shaving off bits of wood from the underside of the keys. Wood is taken off the middle to flatten the key or the end to sharpen it. In a fixed-key Balafon, the keys are suspended by leather straps just above a wooden frame, under which are hung graduated-size calabash gourd resonators. A small hole in each gourd is covered with a membrane traditionally of thin spider’s-egg sac filaments – nowadays more usually of cigarette paper or thin plastic film to produce the characteristic nasal-buzz timbre of the instrument, which is usually played with two gum-rubber-wound mallets while seated on a low stool or while standing using a shoulder or waist sling hooked to its frame. This effect is accentuated by the sound of metal bracelets attached to the player’s wrist. Mallets and resonators are fixed on a frame of wood sticks and strings made of goat’s skin.

Regional traditions: As the Balafon cultures vary across West Africa, so does the approach to the instrument itself. In many areas the Balafon is played alone in a ritual context, in others as part of an ensemble. In Guinea and Mali, the Balafon is often part of an ensemble of three, pitched low, medium and high. The Susu and Malinké people of Guinea are closely identified with the Bala, as are the other Manding peoples of Mali, Senegal, and the Gambia. Cameroon, Chad, and even the nations of the Congo Basin have a long Balafon traditions. 

The Bala, kora , and the Ngoni  are the three instruments most associated with Griot bardic traditions of West Africa. Each is more closely associated with specific areas, communities, and traditions, though all are played together in ensembles throughout the region. Guinea has been the historic heartland of solo Balafon.  The Balafon, also known as Balafo, Bala, Balani, Gyil, and Balangi, is a type of tuned percussion instrument. It is played by using two padded sticks to strike the tuned keys.

***The gyil  is the name of a buzzing  Balafon common to the Gur-speaking populations in northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, southeastern Mali and northern Ivory Coast in West Africa…

In some cultures the Balafon was and in some still is a sacred instrument, playable only by trained religious caste members and only at ritual events such as festivals, royal, funeral, or marriage celebrations. Here the Balafon is kept in a temple storehouse, and can only be removed and played after undergoing purification rites. Specific instruments may be built to be only played for specific rituals and repertoires. Young adepts are trained not on the sacred instrument, but on free-key pit Balafons.

                                     *** Sabar Wolof Drums ***

 Sabar drumming is the very exciting syncopated drumming of the Wolof tribe in Senegal and Gambia. The Djola and Mandinka Sabar is very rare. The only place to see this Sabar is in rural areas during a ceremony such as a naming ceremony, wedding, or birthday. Wolof sabar can be seen throughout Senegal and Gambia in urban areas as well as rural. Sabar is not complete without the dance. Of course this is true with most drumming in West Africa. The dance is a very beautiful style… almost even like a martial arts. Sabar dancers display incredible flexibility and agility.

The Sabar drums are traditionally peg tuned…but some players today are using the more modern method of rope tuning. There are 5 drums in the Sabar family and they all have different sounds and roles to play in the music. The M’balax drum is the main rhythm drum and is fairly high in pitch and medium size. The N’der drum is the tallest and highest in pitch and is the lead drum and plays a lot of ‘calls’ or signals to cue the group what to do. The Toongani was originally a mandinka drum called the kutiro but was in recent years added to the Sabar ensemble. This drum is the smallest drum and has a unique bass sound.  The Joll is the lowest in pitch of the bass drums. It play various patterns and is also a solo drum. The highest pitch of the bass drums is the Tahnbat. This drum plays interweaving patterns sort of opposite the Joll. All drums are played with hand and  stick. 

In Gambia and Senegal the most common place to see Sabar drumming is at a ceremony such as naming ceremony, wedding, birthday, or return from Mecca. These ceremonies typically happen in the streets. It is very popular even outside the Wolof tribe. Most ceremonies of all tribes in Gambia and Senegal will have Sabar drumming at the party. Typically Sabar drumming and dance will start after all the formal ceremonies are finished. During a naming ceremony the child is given a name one week after he or she is born. In the morning the baby will be prayed for… as well as all the family prayed for… and during this time the baby’s head is shaved. Depending on what tribe the ceremony can have different events that follow. Typical food at this ceremony is benechin…or jaybuchin. 

Reference Sources:  Wikipedia = Roderick Knight = Charry  Eric = Erik Silverman = Mosheh Milon = Stephan Monssen = Souleyman Diop =  Gert Kilian = Stream Africa = Mike Bennett = Rob Holland = Kim Atkinson

 

Video Posts…Zangbeto-Bells

***   Zangbeto Bells – Togo/Benin West Africa  Video: Hounon Simeon Densoussi

Agogo/Gankogui Of Zangbeto: Tones have a healing effect on our bodies, calm our minds and awaken our spirits. The resonance and vibration of sound releases stress and emotional blockages in the body and calms the mind. The calming of mind expands conscious awareness and connection with spirit.

 

Ayan Agalu = Spirit Of The Drums

Mistakes Are Portals Of Discovery &  Oxygen Of Knowledge:  Play A Wrong Note Is Insignificant – Play Without Passion Is Inexcusable…

Àyàn/Anya was an Orìsà worshiped by the Ancestors of the W/African people and thereby considered as the God of drum and music. Drums like Bata, Sekere, Sakara, and Gángan, Agahu, Dundun, Djembe etc… These Drums are used in  religious worship and some are strictly attached to ritual and ceremonial events. In any case, it is traditionally compulsory to appease Àyàn/Anya invented and endowed the drum with visible and invisible forces.

Drums among Africans are products carved from trees as one of the natural landmarks that as symbols through which they communicate spiritual forces. It is the belief of the W/African people that Drums therefore carry spiritual traits inherent in the tree they are made from and this makes their use important within the religious practices in which they feature within the community. The natural landmarks which Drums are made from are therefore identified as a form of symbolic ritual aesthetics in any ritual practices among the people within their environment.

Àyàn/Anya as an Environmental Deity of the Drum African indigenous religion has its foundation in the culture and tradition of the society. It is this platform that created the belief which people adhere to. The religious belief, therefore, identifies the level of spiritual relationship between the human and the primordial, deified and personified divinities recognized within the religion. The major objective of this relationship is to show that there is a major link between man and higher power, which is God, local deity, a nature deity or a deceased ancestor.

The Sacred Drums speak the Orisha language, and have been used traditionally to recite prayers, religious poetry, greetings, announcements, praises for leaders, and even jokes or teasing.

 Knowledge and Skills Expected of the Master Drummer…

Music in traditional West African culture is all-pervasive. Without it, the people cannot properly create poetry, record history, educate children, celebrate at festivals, praise or abuse, entertain, marry or even die. From the moment of birth, the infant is exposed to strong musical influence. Cradle songs are sung to babies when they are on their mother’s back; these are accompanied by a simple dance step, providing a physical manifestation of rhythm. As soon as the child is old enough, he is encouraged to sing and imitate simple dance movements with accurate rhythm dance pattern and songs. Most of the learning situations mentioned above are informal, providing an opportunity for the child to learn by imitating, observing and listening. Their purpose is to help the child understand his own culture and learn to find his place in it. Religious music tells of the divinities, tribal ancestors and the types of prayers and supplications. As the child absorbs the messages of these songs, he learns what it means to become a full participant in society. Everyone becomes at least an adequate enough singer and dancer to participate in cultural life.

The Master Drummer, music for him is a consummate life-long occupation, and his training is an intensive, continuous process which produces in adulthood a musician possessing skills and knowledge of a degree and breadth to overestimate. The vast majority of Master Drummers are born into drumming families and have fathers who are Master Drummers. An exceptionally gifted child from outside the house of secrets may be apprenticed to a Master Drummer. He will receive the same technical training as a male born into the drumming family, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to absorb all of the cultural, especially religious, knowledge that would be picked up naturally by the son of a Master Drummer.

Master Drummer from the house of Secrets emphasizes masters of traditional importance, such as how to please the gods and his elders, and how to communicate more to his listeners that the message his Drum speaks. His aim is to touch their hearts and move them, and it is this quality in his art that is judged to be the most important for his technical skill is assumed to be near perfect.

The importance of the evocative nature of sound which might be used to achieve the drummer’s desired results, through the medium of sound, he could evoke and handle psychic forces of tremendous potency, which his will could then direct as it suited his purposes. These are some of the things that the Drummer of the house of secrets knows intuitively but which the outsider does not fully grasp.

Let us playwhen they are all in the compound, and for no particular event. Even then they will say that they are playing to get the feel of the Drums, to test them and make sure they are tuned and sound right. They improve constantly within the structure of their everyday lives. The greatest single motivation for a West African child to do well at his drumming is social: he wants to perform and behave as society expects him.

   “He Who Knows How To Wash His Hands Will Eat With The Elders.”

A Drummer never really finished his training or graduates. He is always being tested by older Drummers and as he himself grows older, he will continually test his juniors. Thus, an unbroken line of constant teaching, learning, practicing, and testing is sustained in the house of secrets.

A Master Drummer knows, if he is successful and to what degree, by the general demand for him by how often he is invited to play, and by the status of those who invite him. The people evaluate him primarily on the correctness of his language and his memorization of names and other details, on how well he makes them dance, and how his music touches them personally. Master Drummer is not only a virtuoso on his own lead drum, but he has also mastered the others in his ensemble. In addition, he is a composer, the ensemble conductor, a poet, a historian, a repository of religious knowledge, a philosopher, the coordination of dance and song, and a psychologist par excellence.

Drums

Sacred Drums represent the ultimate expression of God as sound Its symbol is the Drum which serves as both the repository of divine power and the vehicle to give it voice. Sacred Drum is said to be female and is the patron deity of all Drummers.  Therefore, the history of the Drum has evolved from one of religious use and interpretation to musical accompaniment and creation. The Sacred Drums are hermetically sealed sound chamber with certain ritual ingredients and medicines locked inside. When properly performed this ritual heading of the drum is said to affix secret to it.

In a traditional way, Drums are considered to be hung, placed in a reserved place when not in use or set in the sun. This provides a relative dry and undisturbed storing place. The Drum must not be dropped, thrown, stepped over, sat on, or used to curse someone. If these are accidentally or deliberately done, they became a matter of a serious or a grave sin that must be atoned. The sin is considered as a serious taboo to Àyàn the God of the Drum. In that case, if a Drum is broken, it is wrapped in white cloth and buried like a human being in a special ceremony.

The Drum Spirit Who’s larger Than life – The One That Sleeps On Its Side – The Initiates Know The Secret Of The Tortoise – The One That Breathlessly Take The Marketplace By Storm. The Sharpen & Pointed Wood. I Seek Life & Prosperity – Not Death – Disease The Brave One In The house – The Farm. The One That Stands Strong Like Ogun In The House Looks Like The Initiates Of Orisha Oko.

BELLS = Points Of Passage

BELLS = SUPERNATURAL ENCHANTMENT….

From very early times, there has been a link in myths and legends between Bells, water and spirits.  Water was seen as the element that joined the world of the living and the world of the dead. Spirits could make contact through water and the idea of spirits coming out of the sea would not have seemed strange. It was also believed that the spirits of people who died suddenly or violently, or who had not had a proper burial, would not rest and would wander the earth. This included the many sailors who were drowned in stormy seas; their bodies were often never found.

This may have come from their use in real life, to be rung for good or bad times. Bells were used in celebrations such as weddings or to call people to pray. From Celtic times, they were thought to contain magic. The Celtic priests would throw bells into rivers, streams or springs to get rid of bad spirits and make the water pure. Throughout history, bells have also been used to signal good or bad news. Bells were rung at funerals or as a warning of invaders or war. They were even rung in times of plague, to tell people to bring out their dead. There are many stories of ghostly bells heard at sea or near to the sea and they are nearly always a sign of bad luck or a warning of a storm or disaster.

Bells are used in a wide variety of contexts. You probably associate Bells with religious activity, and rightly so, because they’re often ordained for some spiritual purpose. While some Bells are merely decorative or serve some benign practical function, their appearance and use usually involves idolatry and magical enchantments. The value in this study is in helping you correctly interpret the influences of the familiar world around you. Bells, chimes, jingles, cymbals and gongs are commonly said to be good luck and are often used to ward off evil spirits. Could the ringing of bells really exercise spiritual power, enabling some supernatural influence in the natural realm.

Any spiritual significance of any Bell comes from the hearer of the Bell, rather than the Bell itself. A case in point is bells rung on Sunday morning, and other times of the week. To some, the Bells are calls to prayer, and sometimes for some people, a Bell at a specific time is a call to a specific prayer. To others hearing the same sounds, the Bells simply denote the time of day, and to still others, they sometimes are only a nuisance to be endured.

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“BELLS GEOGRAPHICALLY widely distributed and usually possess a clearly defined cultural status.  Legends surround them, and beliefs abound concerning their special powers to induce rain or to dissolve storm clouds; to thwart demons when worn as amulets or when placed on animals, buildings, or conveyances; or to invoke curses and lift spells. The concept of their purifying action is ancient, as is their use in ritual, especially in the religions of eastern and southern Asia. Chinese rang Bells to communicate directly with spirits. East Asia, the fading tone of the Bell is considered spiritually significant. Russian Orthodoxy, Bells directly addressed the deity–hence, huge ones were cast by both peoples to lend greater authority.

Bells are consecrated before being used liturgically. Bells symbolize paradise and the voice of God. Among the most basic and widespread uses of Bells is signaling–marking significant points of ritual, calling to worship, tolling the hours, announcing events, rejoicing, warning, and mourning. It’s common around the globe to find the belling of livestock and horses. “In folk-magic brass is used to effectively repel witches and evil spirits. The protection is thought to be similar to that given by iron. It is used to make various kinds of amulets. Brass bells are hung around the necks of horses, cows and other animals to protect them against the evil eye.” The Hebrews wore crescent moons to ward off the evil eye and they attached Bells to their garments to ward off evil spirits.

 In the Middle Ages the supernatural world was believed to be very real and close. Special protective powers were desired by the superstitious and were attributed to certain objects, including Bells. The Church itself condoned the use of Bells to frighten away evil spirits and this ensured its survival and development. Bells were actually baptized, and once baptized had the power to ward off evil spells and spirits. The use of the dead Bell was typical of this belief, rung for the recently deceased to keep evil spirits from molesting the body.

       The dead Bell was therefore originally rung for two reasons: 
Firstly to seek the prayers of all Christians for a soul just departing; Secondly to drive away the evil spirits who stood at the bed’s foot and about the house, ready to seize their prey, or at least to molest and terrify the soul in its passage; but, by the ringing of the Bell evil spirits are afraid of the sounds of bells, they were kept away; and the soul, like a hunted hare, gained the head start.”

Passing Bell – The name given to the Bell which is rung in the church when a person is near to death; it is said to have the effect of frightening away the evil spirits which are ready to take the soul as it passes from the body. In the medieval period, Bells were sometimes rung to destroy witches, as it was supposed that the sound of Bells threw them off their night flight and rendered their diabolic magic ineffective. The ringing of Bells is also associated with funerals, so sounds mimicking bells were thought to forecast death. The ringing of a wine glass was such a sound, and had to be stopped before its reverberation ended. Ship’s bells were exempted from this superstition, because they signaled time and the changing of watch duties. But if they rang of their own accord, as in a storm, somebody was going to die.

Tones have a healing effect on our bodies, calm our minds and awaken our spirits. The resonance and vibration of sound releases stress and emotional blockages in the body and calms the mind. The calming of mind expands conscious awareness and connection with spirit. Wind chimes thereby help enhance the mind/body/spirit connection bringing us a sense of peace and well being.

 A clock is an instrument for measuring, indicating and maintaining the time. The word “Clock” is derived ultimately from the Celtic words Clagan and Clocca meaning “bell”. For horologists and other specialists the term “Clock” continues to mean exclusively a device with a striking mechanism for announcing intervals of time acoustically, by ringing a Bell, a set of chimes, or a gong.

In the Middle Ages, however, members of religious orders were expected to pray at definite times. Failure to maintain godly habits because of cloudiness or variable flames was not acceptable. The monks and nuns were summoned to prayer by a bell. Soon someone realized that the elaborate astronomical model was not needed; a system of striking the hour with a series of rings of the Bell was sufficient. Sometime after that, people added a dial to show the hours with a pointer (hand). A similar pointer for minutes was not needed until clocks greatly improved in accuracy. Although the first clocks were installed for use in religion, within a few years people began to keep time by the hours, since the ringing of the Bell often could be heard or the dial seen all over a village.

The Agogo/ Gankogui is comprised of two conical-shaped flange Bells of differing size joined at their apexes. Each Bell is made from two arched pieces of sheet iron with a pronounced tapering so that when their edges are welded together a deep cone-shaped vessel results. The larger Bell is approximately twice as long as the smaller one. The apex of each Bell is welded to the flared end of an elongated piece of iron that serves as the Bell’s handle. A wood stick is used to strike the rims of theBells, which are what vibrates most energetically when the Bells are played. The Agogo/Gankogui player holds the handle of the Bell in one hand with the Bells facing either upwards or downwards. The wood beater used to strike the Bells near their rims is held in the player’s other hand. Each Bell produces one basic pitch, and the larger Bell is noticeably lower in pitch than the smaller one. When held facing downwards, a seated player can, in addition to allowing the larger Bell to ring at full volume, also press it against her/his thigh to achieve subtle timbres effects.  

The Agogo/Gankogui is sometimes referred to as  “forged iron carrying a child”. The larger Bell is considered to be the parent of the smaller one. The larger Bell of the Agogo/Gankogui is tuned approximately one octave (Tin) below the smaller one (Go) – The person playing Agogo/Gankogui must have excellent time and not be distracted easily.

The Atoke/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. Think of the characteristics associated with Bells. They usually were associated with carrying messages through the air and over distances. Clearing the air…changing the frequency in the air…clear messages as associated with the prophetic…these are the main ones that I connect with when it comes to Bells.

TimeKeepersIn our dream we may see Bells, or hear them or both. Bells are important to many religions and cultures around the world. They may be deep and resonant, light and joyous, sad or celebration. Bells are not things we see or hear as often as we might have in previous generations, but their symbolic significance still holds a profound sway over many of us. And while we may not see actual Bells so often in day to day life, we still have more abstract Bells around us in many forms – door Bells, the “ring tones” on our phones, the alarm clock and so on.
   The Meaning of a Bell in a Dream…  Bells call us to prayer, so in a dream they may symbolize a spiritual calling, or even a special message we are about to receive. Bells are used by town criers to announce important events, so in a dream we may hear Bells when our subconscious is trying to ensure we pay attention to an important piece of information it is trying to impart.

Bells at their most celebration signal an end to war, the highest of holy days or a wedding. To dream of such joyous Bells as this is a wonderful sign of exceptional and blessed transition. It may be an end to warning parts of our own personalities, a sign that we are reconciling deeply held internal conflicts. Dreams of such celebration Bells may signify a sacred union, a merging of our opposing male and female sides. These dreams can remind us of the very best that being alive is about. Bells can be joyous, celebration or even sacred. But Bells can be warnings, a call to action, a call for help or a symbol of passing. Bells help communicate between the world of matter and the world of spirit. If we dream of Bells we would do well to heed their message, whatever it may be. The ringing of a Bell or Bells can represent a message being delivered. For example, the ringing of a school Bell sends the message that class is beginning or ending. The ringing of church Bells sends a message that a significant event has occurred. The ringing of a delicate Bell or chime could mean there’s a message you need to pay attention to, either in the dream or in real life.

Throughout society and culture around the world, Bells have a multitude of meanings and purposes. Bells symbolize beginnings and endings. Bells are rung at weddings, funerals and to kick off boxing rounds. Church Bells gather people by summoning them to church or events. Bells announce that someone’s at the door or on the phone and warn us not to cross railroad tracks. Chimes tinkling in the breeze can relax us and help us guess the speed of the wind. Bells even have the power to tell us what to do! Alarm clocks tell us to wake up and school Bells tell us to get to class.

Reference Sources: Wikipedia = Bob Schlenker =

 

Women of the Calabash

                SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY TO BRILLIANCE…

Mistakes Are The Portals Of Discovery * Play A Wrong Note = Insignificant * Play Without Passion = Inexcusable

” Ilu-Shekere Agbaye ” = ” El-Chekere Mundial “

Measure The Breath & The Length – The Hands Reaches Much Higher Than The Head – No Forest Is So Dense That The Iroko Tree Cannot Be Seen. May Your Life Be Clear & Pure Like Water Drawn Early In The Morning…

The Goddess “Shekere” Invents Her Own Life & Lives According To…Her Own Vision. This Quality Requires = Imagination – Dedication & Practice.  

*** Mother, with whom one enters into covenant for all good thing  the Woman that supreme among other Women  the mother that puts breast of wealth in her child’s mouth  you are not up to a louse before an unbeliever you are not up to an egg of the louse before a fool  you louse, the fire on head that burn them more than the real fire you are up to an egg of the louse and much more  you are up to an egg of the louse and much more.

Existence Is Not About Learning To Accept Reality, But Rather Remembering Your Power To Create It…

*** The Calabash is a functional creation of nature with a wide variety of uses and traditions in cultures around the world. “Shekere” is a general name to describe the beaded calabash rattle. It comes in many shapes and sizes, is played in a variety of styles, and has many different names. In Africa it is found primarily, but not exclusively, in the countries of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Different language groups in each country often have their own names, styles, techniques, and traditions associated with the Shekere.

Mother Shekere…. A Beautiful Face Will Age…A Perfect Body Will Change…But A Beautiful Soul Will Always Be A Beautiful Soul…

Calabash is the embodiment of Women’s Mystical Power, the ability to control physical & spiritual forces, to create life through procreation, and the sustenance of life are considered to be ultimate power. The Female being has been chosen by the creator to be the portal between the spiritual realm and this physical realm. 

 Be Strong Enough To Stand Alone = Be Yourself Enough To Stand Apart = But Be Wise Enough To Stand Together When The Time Comes.

 All  Women of the Calabash ever really needed was someone who holds a safe space for us. Someone who sees our gifts and magic, understands the incredible potential this kind of presence is capable of and creates a safe place for it to unfold. You’re not complicated, you’re exquisitely created. You’re a unique gem waiting to be revealed from your raw form. Have you been touched by hands that don’t shake with the responsibility of revealing such extraordinary beauty? You deserve a confident touch and an experienced eye. If you’ve never felt fully seen, your beauty never fully revealed, know it’s not the perfection of your beauty that’s been missing, but the eye of one with the vision to see what’s been there all along. You’re more than enough. You always were.

There Is A Line Where Ignorance & Knowledge Merge As One. Everything That Can Be called Wisdom Happens On That Line.

The VAGINA is the 3rd dimensional portal to Mother Earth. In order for all souls to have a physical experience here on this planet, they must come through her divine portal. It’s no wonder that she is considered the – Gate of Heaven. The Intention Is To Offer Practical Guidance To Connect And Work With The Divine Mother Ancestral Wisdom, And To Use It To Empower Lives Today. The Calabash As Symbol For The Womb… Because Of Her Shape, Calabash also Symbolizes The “Womb”. In Both The Sense Of The Female Reproductive Organ As Well As In A Broader Creative Sense.

This Audio/Video presentation is dedicated to all the Players and Lovers of Shekere.

I look forward to your comments below!

“Has this guy got stories to tell. Yagbe Awolowo Onilu rightly deserves a place at the table of the Elders. The passion with which he has investigated and shared African spirituality with the rest of the planet has left us all richer.” Modupue Baba !!!  Scott Wardinsky

West African, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Haitian Master Drummer/Educator/Ethnomusicologist/Living Repository of Folkloric Knowledge/Keeper of the Flame…My Brother…Yagbe Awolowo Onilu…I am honored to know you. Kamau Mensah

“Thanks for posting this Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu Sometimes it appears that the shekere gets dismissed as a “rattle .” Like anyone can just pick one up and just shake it. Good to see emphasis on technique and rhythm.”

“The Straight Stick” Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu, My Friend, My Brother, My Mentor and indeed Master of many disciplines. You have been an inspiration to me and to many whom have crossed your path. Although it is only a fragment of the many secrets that you possess, this music/video is truly a blessing to me. The world needs to see and hear more of your work. Thank You for your unwavering energy and for breaking me down when proper instruction was necessary.  Joe PIlly Martinez 

Nothing so funky and profound can ever be dismissed…. Thank you Yagbe for making this available to us all. I hope more will be coming in the near future.     Gustavo Kayro

Me gusta mucho todo lo publicas me lo trámites se ve que eres apasionado en todo lo que quieres y en lo que haces verdaderamente toda mi admiración.   Mar Tandy  

Excellent information. The gourd is really the belly symbol that generates life – Container of Wisdom Supreme Orunmilá Baba Ifa, which introduced the principle of humanity. The magic is in the ability to generate weddings, continuing the human species. Ire, o!  ( Juliana Arruda )

Your work is priceless my Brother! Thank you for sharing!   Stan Corpus

Alafia! Adupe! Thank you for sharing the wisdom Yagbe. Ase’!   Maria Medina 

Gracias baba por todo su arduo trabajo y toda estas bellas enseñanzas. Yissell Diaz 

Heart throbbing beat… Sekere lo n Oba jo. Great Vibes abound, around and colorful. Ire Awon Irunmole…   Babatunde Kayode

I am hugely moved and humbled to be included in this photo tribute to the power of the Calabash Shekere to uplift and move people in both ancient and modern traditions! Thank you, Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu, for these very inspiring photos! And thank you for including me in this series! Blessings to you.  Jim Greiner 

Much appreciation for your efforts BABA needles to say that you’re constant dedication to the secrets of the CALABASH is second to none,I’m so blessed to have you as one of my closest Brother that I never had,I do really appreciate all that you do.   Mosheh Milon Sr 

 

 

Magical Gourds…

Calabash (Gourd) History & Cultural Background…

The Myth Of The Sacred Calabash = Mankind’s Most Useful Plant…. Magical Calabash Anthology Of Sacred Wisdom From The Ancestral Mothers And Magic.

The Calabash (Gourd), was one of the first plants cultivated by humans – not for food, but for use as a container.  It came from Africa and has accompanied us around the world for thousands of years.

In Africa, the Calabash (Gourd), plant, has long been used as a food and medicine, and its hard shell as a bottle, a dipper and even an ancient musical instrument. Calabash have traditionally been used to carry medicine, wine and “magic”.  Calabash were also tied to the backs of children and boat people to serve as life preservers. Calabash is also possibly mankind’s oldest musical instrument resonator. It is the only known plant whose use by humans spanned prehistoric cultures across the entire globe, but one thing that has puzzled scientists was how – given its African origins – it came to be so widely used in the Americas.

The Calabash (Gourd) seeds drifted across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Americas, then took root and grew wild in the New World. The wild African Calabash belongs at the base of the bottle Calabash family tree.  The tree then splits into two main branches: African domesticated Calabash, and Eurasian ones. Both ancient and modern American Calabash samples belong to the African branch of the tree. 

Furthermore, genetic mutations showed that the American Calabash- shared a common Ancestor with African Calabash. The seeds of wild African Calabash may have washed out to sea to successfully germinate after making landfall in the welcoming climates of places like Florida,  and Brazil.

The Calabash (Gourd) is a functional creation of nature with a wide variety of uses and traditions in cultures around the world. A fruit of varied shape and size, it commonly grows on a vine not unlike the squash, but there are also varieties that grow on bushes and trees.

  ***The most highly esteemed and favorite Calabashes (Gourds) had chants composed for them as though they were human beings, and when they were placed on the table one would hear their owner with proud countenances, chanting of the celebrated deeds of those for whom they were named.

More and more, as Western utensils and pottery became available, traditional Calabashes were not thrown away but rather, were kept and treated as valuable heritage.

Ancient Shaped Calabashes (Gourds) – after the Calabashes had been shaped and hollowed they were finished with  tung oil to enhance the grain and polish the Calabash leaving it with a soft finish. Iron tools replaced the traditional stone and coral tools for fashioning Calabashes when they became popular to collect, they were often refinished with shellac to give the surface a glossy finish, the Calabash being treated as any piece of fine woodwork. Ancient methods of polishing Calabashes fell into disuse.

Repairing Calabashes (Gourds)during the crafting process or during the life of the Calabash was also a skilled art and repairs were often looked upon as marks of beauty. Repairs consisted of filling holes and cracks with wooden plugs and using plugs to stop cracks from enlarging. The most commonly identified repair is the butterfly repair.

***Steps which can be taken to ensure a longer life for your Calabash (Gourd). Because Calabashes are made of wood, an organic material, they are susceptible to damage from insects, humidity, light and dust. The following is a summary of how these forces work to accelerate deterioration of Calabashes and steps which can be taken to limit them. Insects Wood-boring insects such as termites are a major source of damage to Calabashes. They should be examined periodically for the presence of holes and fine pellet or sawdust droppings. If a Calabash has any cracks, as many do, these are sites of exposed wood which are particularly vulnerable to insect infestation. 

***Calabashes (Gourds)should never receive direct sunlight – Illuminated by bright spot lights. Dust can damage Calabashes by attracting insects and mold. The goals of safe storage are to avoid insects, mold, dust, light damage and damage due to mishandling. Calabashes should be stored in a clean, dry, dark storage space.

Calabash (Gourd) are related to melons, squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers, all members of the cucumber family.  The Calabash family also includes many economically important fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, squash, and melons. Calabash are used by people throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean and the Americas for musical instruments, including shakers, maracas, drums, horns, marimbas and various string gourds resembling a banjo.

Mor Thiam  = Dakar Senegal

Other uses include pipes, masks, canteens, water jugs, dippers, birdhouses, bath sponges and decorative Gourds with intricate etched designs. So important were Gourds to Haitian people in the early 1800’s that gourds were made the national currency.

Musical Calabash from Africa and India, such as drums, lutes and sitars, have beautiful, polished finishes decorated with beads and carved designs. Some of the earliest guitars and violins in the United States were made from Calabash by African slaves.  Shaker Calabash are probably one of the earliest of all musical instruments.

In Africa, hollow Calabash are covered with a loose netting strung with hundreds of beads. As the beads slap against the gourd, a loud shaker sound is produced–as good as any modern instrument for this purpose. Using the neck of the Calabash as a handle, the sound is amplified by the hollow interior.

But of all the uses for Calabash, some of the most interesting are the “Penis Sheath Calabash” worn by men of New Guinea. Penis Calabashes are also known from Africa and northern South America. There is considerable speculation among anthropologists about the purpose of such Calabashes, but most agree that they are more than a protective device and serve an important social function.

In so-called “third world” countries the Calabash was historically used as a container for water, and still is an essential utensil in many parts of the world. In rural areas of the U.S., they are often used as birdhouses.

In Africa it is found primarily, but not exclusively, in the countries of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, DanXome, Sierra Leone and Côte-D’Ivoire. Different language groups in each country often have their own names, styles, techniques, and traditions associated with the Shekere. It is a personal instrument and never loaned or shared, even with family members. However, a son who is a professional musician may inherit his father’s Agbe-Shekere. Ilu-Shekere among the Yoruba of Nigeria are often connected with religion, given great respect, and play a very important role in certain traditional musical forms.

Ilu Anya *Shekere – Mangala* Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu

In Nigeria, the very Large beaded Calabash is called  “Agbe” Medium size Calabash “Sekere“ and Small size Calabash “Akese” Traditionally these Drums are used in Religious Worship strictly attached to Ritual Ceremonial events.

A Calabash Which Has No Base Is The One Which Sits On Its Side…

Reference Sources: The Caning Shop – Jim Widess = Earlybirds Farms = Buffalo Bill Meerschaum = Przemek Krawczynski = Jordan Straker = Everwilde Farms Inc. = Encyclopedia Britannica