Author Archives: Chris

Atenteben – Ghanian whistle

Whilst researching the music of Erwan Bouvier I came across of a video of him playing in a group with a guest musician playing an unusual bamboo whistle. The musician was Dela Botri, and the whistle was the atenteben. Atenteben is a bamboo fipple flute from Ghana; it was previously used in funeral ritual music, but back in the 50s was adapted to the diatonic scale and popularised with a wider repertoire.  Musicologist and composer Dr. Ephraim Amu was important in this process, and it seems as if atenteben may have even adopted a place in school music that the recorder did in the UK.

Dela Botri is a very popular exponent of the atenteben, and he demonstrates its versatility in this short kwela-like clip (unfortunately I am prevented from embedding it here).

In this video, Begine Owuo Kebibaya explains the ‘mechanics’ of the atenteben:

Six holes on the front, and an enigmatic (octave?) thumb-hole on the back; essentially a diatonic whistle where a pennywhistler’s “E” fingering plays the tonic.

Another exponent of modern atenteben is Professor Emeritus J. H. K. Nketia who is credited with composing the two following, contrasting performances:

In the next video, we’re shown some parts of the process of making atenteben – from collecting the bamboo to cutting the fipple in the workshop:

And to hear what Dela Botri is doing with atenteben in Ghana, listen to him and Hewale Sounds:

Canadian exponent Isabelle Vadeboncoeur plays an impromtu ‘kwela’:

In this excerpt, Hawale Sounds play a tribute to Kanda Bongo Man’s “Zing Zong

And last of all, Ohia Beye Ya (OBY) Band:

Lemmy Mabaso and Shell Spirit

As Al G pointed out in a comment to an earlier post about Lemmy Mabaso, Lemmy played on the soundtrack to a short film by Geoffrey Jones called Shell Spirit. This film can be found on YouTube (probably not for long though, as the film is part of a BFI compilation called ‘Rhythm of Film‘ that can be bought for £20).

It sounds to me as though Lemmy, on Bb whistle, is accompanied by banjo and babatoni (tea-chest bass). Whereas the banjo remains steady and Lemmy’s whistle is characteristically lyrical, the babatoni is positively acrobatic. And talking of things ‘positively’ – Adam Keelan from Positively Testcard had some more information about Geoffrey Jones and mentioned that Positively Testcard had made some recordings for him – but, presumably, still unreleased.