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:


  1. For those that missed my South African Township 78s set before the London African Gospel Choir’s rendition of Graceland at Common People festival in Oxford – Bestival have issued it as a “Bestimix” on Mixcloud – It contains many rare records not available on-line or on CD ANYWHERE to my knowledge and had never been played at a festival or on the radio in the UK (maybe the world) ever before!

  2. It’s very nice. I’m Michael Mezo from Ghana, I also play the Atenteben. Thank you.

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