Contextual Associations

The atwreshie is a barrel-shaped, single-head membranophone from southern Ghana. It is used by the Ga people to performthe recently developed recreational dance drum style called kpanlongo. This style combines elements from multiple traditions within Ghana. Developed during the 1960s, kpanlongo combines traditional elements with progressive youth culture. It is performed at Ga funerals, wakes, and as recreation.


The basically conical shaped shell (its upper opening is larger than its lower one), but with a barrel-like bulge in the middle, of the atwreshie is carved from a single block of wood. The shape of the shell’s cavity mirrors that of its exterior. Six holes are drilled at an angle through the shell and spaced equidistantly around its circumference a little more than a third of the way down from the top opening of the shell. Into each of these holes is inserted a wood peg. The exposed ends of the pegs are notched near their end to produce a cap around which the rope loops of the drumhead will be secured. The drumhead is made of a circle of rawhide that is folded around and between two metal hoops of a diameter slightly larger than that of the opening of the drum shell. A very long length of rope is then threaded around the second hoop, which is situated above the first hoop, in such a way as to produce six sets of loops for attachment to the drum’s tuning pegs. The remaining edge of the hide is then folded over the top of the second hoop and trimmed.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Typically a pair of atwreshie are played by a seated drummer with the palms of his hands. Before performance the drummer will adjust the tension of the head to the desired pitch and tone quality by pounding the pegs into or out of the drum shell. In the context of kpanlongo recreational dance music the atwreshie player serves as the ensemble’s master drummer.


The atwreshie is a widespread drum form with variations existing across much of coastal west Africa. The origin of these forms of drums is likely impossible to determine as are the influences that have shaped the variations within the broader form.

Bibliographic Citations

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

________, and Maria Billings. 2000. Ghana: Rhythms of the People. CD and liner notes. Multicultural Media MCM3018.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Ghana

Formation: Ga

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.251.1 membranophone--individual single-skin conical drum

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: pair of drums

Shell design: tubular - bulging-conical

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 9.5 in. width of head

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
cord - synthetic

Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin