Also:       obrenten      

Title: Anomabu-Omanhene’s Funeral. Label: Vetter field recording, 29/5/1993. Format: Hi8. Catalogue #: VC-10.

Contextual Associations

The apentemma is a single-head membranophone of the Akan peoples of southern Ghana. One of the most ubiquitous drums of the Akan peoples (see also operenten), the apentemma is played in numerous contexts, including the kete ensemble (the apentemma pictured here is part of a set of kete drums). Only one apentemma is needed in the kete ensemble, but some sets may include more than one. The kete ensemble, and therefore the apentemma, is associated with traditional chiefs. Like almost all drumming in Akan society, the playing of the apentemma is restricted to males. Red and black are colors that the Akan associate with death and funerals, and one important context for which the kete ensemble is used is funerals of chiefs, which explains the cloth checkerboard pattern adorning the drum’s shell.


The goblet-shaped shell of the apentemma is carved from a single block of wood, preferably a local variety of cedar called tweneboa. The shape of the shell’s cavity mirrors that of its exterior. Seven holes are drilled at an angle through the shell and spaced equidistantly around its circumference about a third of the way down from the top opening of the shell. Into each of these holes is inserted a peg, ideally made from ofema wood. The exposed ends of the pegs are notched near their end to produce a cap around which the wire loops of the drumhead will be secured. The drumhead is made of a circle of antelope rawhide that is folded over and between two plant-fiber hoops of a diameter slightly larger than that of the opening of the drum shell. A very long length of wire is then threaded through holes (21 in all) on the bottom side of the hide and around one of the hoops in such a way as to produce seven sets of loops for attachment to the drum’s tuning pegs. The remaining edge of the antelope hide is then folded over the top of the second hoop and trimmed. The straight drumsticks used to beat the drum are made from ofema tree branches. Squares of black and red cloth (see above) are sewn together and then attached to the exterior of the drum shell with nails and tacks.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The drumhead of the apentemma is struck with palms of the drummer’s hands. Whether being played while standing on the ground or carried in a procession, the drumhead is facing up in front of either a seated or a walking drummer. The drumhead’s tautness, and therefore its relative pitch, can be equalized and adjusted with the tuning pegs around which the head’s wire loops run. The apentemma is the next-to-highest-pitched drum in the kete ensemble and, because it is played with the hands, has a softer attack than the other drums in the ensemble that are beaten with sticks. It is a support drum in the ensemble, meaning that for any given piece it plays repeatedly and with little if any variation a specific rhythm that intertwines with the predetermined rhythms of other supporting instruments.


The ubiquitous nature of the apentemma as well as its association with the kete ensemble make tracing a historical origin difficult.

Bibliographic Citations

Koetting, James T. 1984. “Africa/Ghana.” In Worlds of Music ed. Jeff Todd Titon. New York: Schirmer Books, pp. 64-104.

Nketia, J. H. 1963. Drumming in Akan Communities of Ghana. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons LTD.

Younge, Paschal Yao. 1992. Musical Traditions of Ghana, v.1. 2nd ed. Legon, Ghana: University of Ghana.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Akan

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.26 membranophone--goblet-shaped drum: the body consists of a main section which is either cup shaped or cylindrical, and a slender stem

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - pedestal

Number and function of membranes: one, for sounding

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected, by lacing, to pegs protruding from shell

Membrane tension control: adjusting depth of pegs in shell

Sounding for membranophone: striking directly with both hands

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


24 in. height 10.9 in. head diameter

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
lacing - wire

Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter