The Instruments
of the Ewe Orchestra

Gong Icon

Cave Hand

Further study on this subject: Ancient Traditions–Future Possibilities:
Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali and India.

By Matthew Montfort. Ancient Future Music (1985).
ISBN 0-937879-00-2. Book/CD Set- 74.95. SALE! $53.95:

30 Minute Online Lesson.
Custom private lesson via Skype or other service. $44:

The Ewe (also written as Eve) people of the island town of Anyako off the coast of Southeastern Ghana have developed a music rich in polyrhythmic interplay. The instruments of their percussion orchestra are detailed here.

The Ewe Orchestra as a MIDI Map

The West African rhythm exercises from the book Ancient Traditions–Future Possibilities are arranged for General MIDI instruments such as conga and bongo in this Internet presentation of the drum music of takada, a dance and drumming club developed by the Ewe women. To set up playback on a MIDI synthesizer or sampler, use this MIDI map of the drums in the Ewe orchestra to map the MIDI data to the appropriate sound.

The Ewe Instruments


The lowest drum in the Ewe orchestra, the atsimevu is a large barrel drum about five feet in length, played with a stick in one hand and one bare hand. It leads the ensemble and provides the cues.

Suggested substitutions for bare hand notes: sampled low pitched conga, open and dampened.

Bare hand MIDI map (all channel 10):
E3, velocity 127 = an open hit of the drum with the whole hand
E3, velocity 100 = an open hit of the drum with fingers flat
D3, velocity 100 = a dampened slap of the drum with fingers flat
D3, velocity 85 = a dampened slap of the drum with two fingers only

Suggested substitutions for stick hand notes: taiko drum, head, and rim samples.

Stick hand MIDI map (all channel 10):
C#3 = stick on head
C3 = stick on rim


The highest in pitch of all drums in the Ewe orchestra, the kagan is a small narrow drum of the barrel variety. It is played with two sticks and provides a supportive and stabilizing role in the ensemble.

Suggested substitutions: African talking drum without pitch modulation, very high tom tom, or very high timbale sample. Use a sample that is more resonant for long notes than short ones. The velocity settings in this file are quite low because this example was set up using the GM high timbale, which is too loud in relationship to the other drums for this use.

MIDI map (all channel 10):
F3, length lower than 30 = stick on head to make sound "ka"
F3, length higher than 30 = stick on head to make sound "gan"


The sogo and kidi are medium sized barrel drums that play in rhythmic unison. The kidi is slightly smaller and higher in pitch than the sogo. They are played with two sticks.

Suggested substitutions: high taiko drum, African talking drum without pitch modulation, or high tom tom samples for stick head hits; rim shot samples for stick on rim hits.

MIDI map (all channel 10):
C3 = stick on rim open
C3, length 15 = stick on rim, dampened by not letting stick bounce
D#3 = stick on head
D3 = stick on head, dampened by not letting stick bounce


The gankogui is a forged iron double bell played with a metal rod. It provides the unifying rhythm which keeps the whole orchestra in time.

Suggested substitutions: agogo or cowbell samples.

MIDI map (channel 10):
G#2 = gankogui


The axatse is a rattle made of a calabash gourd with a bead net, played by hitting it downwards on to the thigh or upwards against the left hand while holding it in the right hand. It provides a background rhythm for the ensemble.

Suggested substitutions: maracas, rattle, or shaker sample.

MIDI map (channel 10):
A#3 = axatse

Further Resources

Ancient Rhythms–Future Grooves

Ancient Rhythms–Future Grooves: Audio and MIDI Percussion Groove Tracks from the Traditions of Africa, Bali, and India. Want more audio and MIDI files? Get this complete collection of groove tracks from the book Ancient Traditions–Future Possibilities. For a limited time, get both the book and the enhanced audio CD set with MIDI files for only $53.95 (SALE! Normally $74.95): Add 1 to Cart. Buy 1 Now.

Skype School

Skype online music lesson guitar pick icon carved in Bali for Matthew Montfort

Further instruction on this material is available through private Skype lessons with the author, Matthew Montfort.