Geographic Region: Africa
Country of origin: Ghana
Climatic type: Tropical
SvH No.: 211.2
The atsimevu is the largest of the Eve drums. It is constructed of wood, either as one solid carved piece or, as is more common , of wooden slats bound by metal rings. The wood used for the barrel drums, a light mahogany native to West Africa, is known as logo in Eve. (Galeota 1985: 59) The drums range in size from four and one half to six feet tall (Galeota 1985: 04) with a head ranging in size from nine inches to one foot in diameter. (Pantaleoni 1971: 46) The drum is approximately 15 inches around the middle, and the opening is about nine inches in diameter. (Ladzekpo)
The name atsimevu comes from a description of the way the drum is supported by the vudetsi. (Ladzekpo) Modern construction of this drum and others like it is similar to the construction of wooden barrels. In the past these drums were carved from solid tree trunks. This still happens at times, but the scarcity of large trees makes it more efficient to use wooden slats bound by metal rings. (Pantaleoni 1971: 46) Early drums of this type were actually made from used commercial barrels. Laurance Mensaga Nutakor, a drum maker from Abor, born 1911, is reputed to be the first to make a barrel drum from raw materials. (Galeota 1985: 30)
The atsimevu is tuned low in relation to the ensemble. Proper tuning is achieved one of two ways. In dry conditions, the drum is sometimes turned upside down and filled with water, allowing the planks to absorb the moisture. The expansion of the wood tightens the pegs in their sockets, thus pulling the drum head taut. (Galeota 1985: 03) A more common technique is to drive the wooden pegs farther into their sockets, achieving the same purpose.
Sound is created on the atsimevu by striking the drum with the full hand, a stick, the fingers or combinations of the above. (Ladzekpo) Additional sounds are produced by damping the membrane to affect resonance and striking differing positions on the drum head. (Ladzekpo) Leaning the drum on a stand creates a comfortable angle at which to play, as well as leaving the bottom open to provide resonance. The sticks used are approximately ten inches long and made of thick wood. (Galeota 1985: 03) The eight different strokes played on the atsimevu are referred to by the corresponding vocable syllables de, te, ge, tsi, to, ka, dza, and dzi. (Ladzekpo) Although the atsimevu in the Eve drum ensemble always plays the leading role, the style of lead drumming varies throughout the repertoire. When accompanying singing, the atsimevu outlines the song's melodic and rhythmic structure. (Galeota 1985: 10) When played for dancing, the atsimevu leads the ensemble by playing rhythms that signal dance movements.
The music of the Eve drum ensemble is transmitted almost exclusively aurally. The vocables, however, are similar to notation in that they serve as a tool for learning and remembering rhythms and patterns.
The atsimevu plays the leading role in the drum ensemble of the Eve. Its most important function is to interact with the dancers while setting the pace of the music. (Locke 1979: 501) While engaging in a musical dialogue with the supporting drums sogo and kidi, the atsimevu plays rhythms that signal dance movements.
Galeota, Joseph. 1985. "Drum Making Among the Southern Eve People of Ghana and Togo." M.A. thesis, Wesleyan University.
Last Modified: 14-Sep-2010TOP