Title: Frafra Gonje Group. Label: Vetter field recording, 1/4/1993. Format: Hi8. Catalogue#: VC-3.

Title: Frafra Gonje Group. Label: Vetter field recording, 1/4/1993. Format: Hi8. Catalogue#: VC-3.

Contextual Associations

The siyari is a vessel-rattle idiophone of the Frafra people of northern Ghana. It is an accompanying instrument most often used in support of gonje (one-string fiddle) players/praise-singers. Published material on Frafra music is scarce, so most of this article is based upon observations of migrant Frafra musicians performing in Cape Coast (southern) Ghana made by the author.


The siyari gourd rattle is almost a perfect sphere in shape. Dry seeds are inserted into a hollow dried gourd shell through a small hole made where the vine connected to the gourd. After inserting the seeds, the opening is covered with a circular cap of dried gourd, which is then sewn shut. 

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The siyari is used to provide a lively rhythmic accompaniment for the Frafra spike fiddle, the gonje. The player rhythmically tosses this rattle around between his two hands and his chest to produce rhythms that are a delight both to hear and to watch being produced (see first video clip). Usually more than one siyari player will participate in a performance by a gonje player, supplying choral responses to the praise-singer’s lines while also providing the music with a rhythmic underpinning (see second video clip).


Information of the origin and development of the siyari was not found. It is not a widespread form of rattle, which suggests it could be an invention of the Frafra people or some neighboring group.

Bibliographic Citations

Vetter, Roger. 1993. Field research notes and recordings made in Cape Coast, Ghana.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Frafra

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

112.13 idiophone--vessel rattles: rattling objects enclosed in a vessel strike against each other or against the walls of the vessel, or usually against both

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

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

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - indirect

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - pellet/s, seed/s, bead/s inside closed vessel/s

Energy input motion by performer: shaking

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


9 in. diameter

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter