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Title: Anomabu—Asafo Company #6. Label: Vetter field recording, 3 April 1993. Format: Hi8. Catalog#: VC-7.

Contextual Associations

The dawuro is a large bell idiophone used in a few drum and vocal ensembles of the Akan peoples of southern Ghana. In the Fante-speaking areas (Fante is one of the Akan dialects) this bell is found primarily in ensembles associated with chiefs (such as the fontomfrom ensemble), warrior organizations (asafo), and with spirit-possession cults (akom) (see Vetter "Anomabu" for more information on these Fante ensembles). 


The dawuro is made entirely of sheet iron. Two pieces of sheet iron shaped like trowel blades are made into a single integral bell by welding together the seams at their points of contact to create a flange. This creates a deep vessel with a wide opening. The joined tip of the imagined trowel blades is welded to an iron handle. A wooden stick or dowel is used as a beater.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The dawuro is held in one of two ways; by its handle with the open end facing upwards and the bell’s rim struck with the beater; or one side of the bell resting on the player’s open palm, the open end facing outwards while being struck on its upper surface near the rim. One or two dawuro are used in Fante asafo and akom ensembles to vigorously perform short iterative timelines to which all other instrumental (mostly drums) and vocal parts are oriented. When two bells are present in such groups, different, but interlocking, rhythms are sometimes played by the two musicians. The dawuro is invariably struck vigorously to produce a loud and penetrating tone.


Given the importance to Fante identity of the venerable cultural institutions and their music making in which the dawuro is employed, the instrument has almost certainly been in existence for quite some time. But, as is the case with many instruments throughout Africa, the origin and history of the dawuro was not recorded. Vansina speculates from archaeological and other forms of evidence that flanged iron bells such as the dawuro originated in what is now Nigeria and Cameroon between 500 and 1000 years ago and subsequently diffused from there to the west, east, and south.

Bibliographic Citations

n.a. 1984. “Dawuro.” NGDMI v.1: 551.

Vansina, J. 1969. “The Bells of Kings.” The Journal of African History 10/2: 187-197.

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, http://vetter.sites.grinnell.edu/ghana/


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Akan

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.242.121 idiophone--individual suspended bell suspended from the apex: struck from the outside (no striker is attached inside the bell), there being a separate beater

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: bell-shaped vessel - with opening

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/s - stick/s with unpadded tip/s

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


17 in. height

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Toby Austin, Roger Vetter