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What is the Agogô Percussion Instrument?

If you are interested in world percussion instruments, you might have heard of the agogô. The agogô (AH-go-go) is an instrument used widely in West Africa, Brazil, and throughout the world. The name refers to “double bell” in the tonal Yoruba language and is onomatopoeia for the two sounds that it makes.

Description of the Agogô

The agogô consists of two cone-shaped iron bells with their apexes connected by a common handle made from a hook-shaped iron rod. The bells differ in size and are made from fan-shaped pieces of sheet iron rolled into cones with the seams welded together. The tips of these cones are then welded to the ends of the handle so that the larger bell extends further forward than the smaller one. The rod beater can be made of either iron or wood.

How to Play the Agogô

To play the agogô, the player grips the instrument in one hand with the handle in his palm. The openings of the bells are facing away from him and the smaller bell is above the larger one. The other hand is used to hold the beater. To produce sounds from the agogô, the beater is used to strike the upward facing sides of the bells near their rims.

Sounds of the Agogô

The agogô produces two tones. The precision of the frequencies is not important but one bell has a relatively higher pitch than the other. The interval between the bells of the first instrument is approximately an M3. The instrument is typically used to perform an iterative rhythmic pattern throughout a performance of a given repertoire item.

Religious Origins

The agogô is used in ceremonial music of religions in Yorubaland and also in their new practices. Yorubaland is in the homeland and cultural region of the Yoruba people in West Africa or present Nigeria. The Yoruba religion comprises traditional practices and spiritual concepts with rituals performed using African percussion. The Yoruba religion believes that all human beings pass through what is known as Ayanmo, which translates into destiny or fate.

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