Guide to Agogo

The Agogo is probably the oldest samba instrument that originates from the West African Yoruba. It is an instrument that was used in music of the religious ceremonies in Yorubaland, based on beliefs like Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion. However, nowadays, the Agogo was not only used in Yoruba and Edo music, but also in music all throughout the world.

In addition to that, the Agogo is an instrument that has a single or double conical bell that are linked together by a steel bent. The most common arrangement of the Agogo bell is two bells attached on a U-shape. Interestingly, each of the Agogo bells have different sounds that depends on the bell’s size. In its arrangement, the smaller bell is held uppermost. Either bell (the big or small) may be hit with a wooden stick, making a cowbell like sound. These bellswere usually in chrome color or painted steel.

Parts of an Agogo Instrument

An Agogo Bell is indeed one of the simplest instruments for it only has a few key parts. This instrument’s key parts include the Bell, the Stick and its handle.

  • Agogo Bell: An Agogo bell is a hollow metal conical bell that is usually made out of metal. However, some Agogos were made out wood and small coconuts. This instrument produces a sound when it was struck. There are three variations of an Agogo bell. These were the Metal, Wood, and Coconut Bell.
  • Wood: If an Agogo bell is made out of wood, of course you cannot expect to sound like a metal bell. However, the sound of a wooden Agogo bell is much more earthy and natural.
  • Small Coconuts: There are also Agogo instruments that has a bell made out of small coconut shells. This type of bell has a rough surface but produces a clear and rich sound.
  • Metal: Most of the Agogo bells were made out of metal for they resonate a lot more in comparison to wood and nut bells.
  • Stick: The stick is the tool that the player used in hitting the Agogo bell.
  • Handle: The Handle is where the Agogo bells is attached. In some construction of Agogo, these two bells can be squeeze for the two bells hit against each other.

This instrument is straight forward since the player would onlystrike the bell to produce a sound. However, the trick is, one must know some basic patterns in order to play the instrument right. Below are the basic rhythmic patterns of an Agogo instrument.

The Agogo Instrument’s Rhythmic Pattern

When it comes to the instruments rhythmic pattern, the Agogo has the most basic or archetypal pattern. It has a four-basic pattern including the first bell pattern, which is in 4/4 form, the standard pattern known as clave. This pattern is usually used in an Afro-Brazilian dance called Maculete, and in rhythms of Macumba’s and Candoble’s religious practices.

The second pattern, is a rhythm that is commonly used in Afoxe, an Afro-Brazillian secular group. This is often thought as the embellished version of the bell pattern one. It has a four additional stroke in comparison to the first bell pattern. Furthermore, the third basic rhythmic pattern of the Agogo instrument is most often used in Batucada, a substyle of samba that refers to an African-influenced Brazilian percussive style.The fourth one can also be thought as the embellishment version of the first pattern, although it sounds like the maracatu bell with an additional four strokes.

Agogo Instrument as an Accompaniment in Rock Music

Love Roller Coaster Single by Ohio Players

In a 1975 American funk and R&B song by Ohio Players, one of the notable instruments used in there was the Agogo bell. It is a song originally composed by James Williams, Ralph Middlebrooks, Clarence Satchel, William Beck, and Leeroy Bonner. Aside from that song, the Agogo bell was also played by another rock music band including the Soulfly Band. This band was an American Heavy Metal Band that was formed in 1997 in Phoenix, Arizona. In fact, in one of the band’s debut album, the band’s front man and guitarist, Max Cavalera, had played an Agogo instrument.