Also:       afirikyiwa      sikyifriykyiwa      

Contextual Associations

The firikyiwa is a metal bell idiophone of the Akan peoples of southern Ghana. It is found in the instrumentation of a wide range of recreational drum and vocal ensembles in both urban and rural locales throughout the Akan cultural region. Although not exclusively played by women, the firikyiwa is often performed by them both in ensembles that include both sexes and those that are predominantly or entirely female in their composition.


The firikyiwa is constructed from two dissimilarly shaped pieces of iron: one starts out as a short rectangular strip that is bent into a ring; the other begins as two leaf-shaped ends connected with a short, common ‘stem.’ The two ‘leaves’ are forged into cups, and then the entire piece of metal is bent so that the ‘leaf tips’ touch and are united through forging. This leaves the opening of the two leaf-shaped cups facing, but not touching, one another, except at the point at which their tips have been united. Because the two components of the instrument that come into contact are of the same material, this instrument could be argued to be a concussion idiophone. However, because the two components that are concussed are of very different forms—one a ring and the other an open vessel of sorts—it is difficult to locate this instrument in the available categories of the classification system. Various sources identify it as a bell or a castanet, but neither of these designations fit comfortably. Rather than resolving these conflicting labels, we will point out that the vessel part of the instrument vibrates as a whole, (not just its rims) and that the shape of the vessel part of the instrument serves to resonate the sound it produces.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The firikyiwa player suspends the instrument from her right hand by inserting her index finger through the space between the cups and underneath the stem that joins them. The ring is worn above the knuckle of the right hand thumb. The performer sounds the instrument by striking her thumb and index finger together, which forcefully brings the ring and the stem into contact. Musically the firikyiwa is used as a timekeeping instrument, providing a short iterative rhythm around which other melodic and rhythmic lines are organized.


This instrument has a strong association with the Akan peoples and does not appear to be widely used and distributed outside their cultural homeland. However, available sources provide us with no information on the origin and evolution of the firikyiwa.

Bibliographic Citations

Vetter, Roger. 1996. Rhythms of Life, Songs of Wisdom: Akan Music from Ghana, West Africa. CD and booklet. Smithsonian Folkways  SF CD 40463.

________. Anomabu, Ghana—Musicking in a Fante Community, accessed November 1, 2016,


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Akan

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.242.1 idiophone--individual bell: the vibration is weakest near the vertex

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: pinching

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: hollow spheroid vessel - with opening/s

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater - metal ring

Energy input motion by performer: pinching

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


3 in. height 2.2 in. greatest width

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter