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”
Its about time there was some practical, hands-on music around here, and to this end I’ve transcribed|arranged|made-up the short and sweet solo section from Spoke’s Mashiyane’s song called ‘Shisa Phata Phata’ (composed by a ‘R. Msomi’).
Back in June there was a blip in the visitor stats that was the result of a link to the Kwela Project from a post in the Banjoroots Yahoo group. The post was about Africa-American single-stringed instruments, and as well as mentioning the renowned ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik (who happens to play clarinet in Donald Kachamba‘s Kwela Heritage Jazz Band), it talks of the babatoni – South African washtub (well, more accurately, tea-chest) bass. Babatoni, aka Kwela Bass, is just one instance of a vast, worldwide class of single-string bass instruments. So now, when you listen to kwela – listen to what is happening in the bottom-end, far from the wailing pennywhistle. Maybe that’s a babatoni you’re hearing!