Kpanlogo rhythms originate in Ghana in West Africa and I have been taught many versions of this rhythm by many different teachers, all claiming theirs as the original. I’m still of the opinion that what I have is a melange and some pf the parts could well be from other Ghanaian rhythms. Lost in translation you might say. It is it appears, a popular rhythm with many variations and I have heard differing stories about it’s origins. One story suggests it was a rhythm, a drum and a dance derived to celebrate Independence. This from the Ghana Goods website.
Kpanlogo came in the wake of Ghana’s Independence, from the streets of Accra around 1962. It was music played by the youth, shooting from the spirit of freedom that their new found independence had brought them. From the beginning it was not accepted by the elders of the community, the songs were ‘profane and the dance movements not decent.’ – Ghana Arts Centre.
After its acceptance by the establishment, it was adopted by the main political movement the C.P.P. A lot of the Kpanlogo bands were being funded by the late President Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Nowadays Kpanlogo is enjoyed by all played at both informal gatherings for pleasure as well as at Ga funerals and political settings.
The dancer reacts to the music in is or their own style, usually two dancers at a time (opposite sex), working off each other in a flirtatious sexual manner. During festival time the dance becomes congregational. Many people are seen dancing at the same time.
In Highlife Time by John Collins. he states,
Kpanlogo is a “neo traditional” social music and dancestyle of the Ga People of Ghana . It is said to be invented in 1963 by a man named Otoo Lincoln. The name Kpanlogo was that of a young girl in a Ananse folk tale. Its the rhythms and dance are a combination of Highlife(Pop music), Kolomashie (street processional music), Oge (a Liberian based music drum style) and Rock n Roll (i.e. the Twist). In 1964, the Kpanlogo was banned by the elders of the Arts council of Ghana becuase the dance was considered to “sexual” due to its hip movements.It was later redeemed after a public showing to the Arts Council.
In this version you will hear a drum call lead us into the 3/2 Clave part ( Spanish for Key) which is played on a forged iron bell called Gankogui (Pronounced Gan-Kog-Way) and a second supporting bell on the 2,3 4 count in the bar.
Along comes the first of our hand drum patterns pa pa gun, pa ta, pa pa pa pa gun, pa ta.
Can you hear it?
After a while a second more complex rhythm comes into play and the two create a kind of poly-rhythmic magic before being joined by a simple accompaniment on the upbeat on a third drum. All three drums in this instance would traditionally be Kpanlogo’s tuned to different pitches.
Next we hear a simple Bass drum line played on the Gome, a box frame drum on which the drummer sits, using the heels of his feet to alter the pitch.
We then hear the introduction of the Caxixi ( Pronounced Ca-Chi-Chi) a woven gourd shaker.
Now a third bell joins in with a dancing motif that rolls between the high and low bell sounds. This bell is pitched higher than the Gankogui bell playing the Clave pattern.
This for our arrangement is now the full ensemble with 8 persons playing at least.
One of the drummers will be ascribed the lead roll. calling the group to groove and also calling the drum break which you can hear coming once the full ensemble is in play. First a warning call and then a repeat of the phrase with a slight variation at the end. All the hand drums respond with a pattern of their own whilst the rest of the group grooves on. Once answered the Lead and support drummers return to the groove playing on until a call to end is made.
As noted above, traditionally dancers would interact with both the rhythm and one another during the playing and improvised and learned solo phrases would be employed to this end by the lead drummer.
We are not Ghanaian and here in my class we are studying the drumming in isolation to the dance which is a shame but unfortunately there are no Ghanaian dancers here in the town.
Whilst we do learn solo phrases they are not included in this version.
I hope you enjoy this very small slice of our Ghananian vibe.