Music of Togo

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A Togolese drum. Oprente Trommel der Firma djembe-shop aus Tweneboa Holz.jpg
A Togolese drum.

The music of Togo has produced a number of internationally known popular entertainers including Bella Bellow, Akofah Akussah, Afia Mala, Itadi Bonney, Wellborn, King Mensah and Jimi Hope.

Togo Country in Africa

Togo, officially the Togolese Republic, is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. The sovereign state extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, where its capital Lomé is located. Togo covers 57,000 square kilometres, making it one of the smallest countries in Africa, with a population of approximately 7.6 million.

Bella Bellow was a Togolese singer, who created an international career and recorded several albums. She died at the age of 28 in a car accident in Togo.

Jimi HopeKoffi Senaya is a Togolese musician, painter and sculptor. He first became known through the Acide Rock group.


National music

The Togolese national anthem is Salut à toi, pays de nos aïeux (Land of our forefathers), written by Alex Casimir-Dosseh. From 1979 to 1992 it was replaced by an anthem composed by the party of the Rally of the Togolese People. French is the official and commercial language of Togo.

Salut à toi, pays de nos aïeux national anthem

"Terre de nos aïeux" is the national anthem of Togo. The words and music were written by Alex Casimir-Dosseh, and it was the national anthem from independence in 1960 until 1979. In 1979 it was replaced in its capacity by a different composition created by the party of the Rally of the Togolese People. It was readopted in 1992.

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Traditional music

Togo's southern plain is its most populous area, where the capital, Lomé, is situated on the Gulf of Guinea but, like its neighbours, Ghana and Benin, its territory extends hundreds of kilometres northward, passing through a central hill region into the northern savanna that borders Burkina Faso. Its population of over 6 million people, which is 65% rural and agrarian, is composed of about 21 ethnic groups. Approximately 51% of the population has indigenous beliefs, 29% is Christian, and 20% Muslim. [1]

Lomé City in Maritime Region, Togo

Lomé is the capital and largest city of Togo. It has an urban population of 837,437 while there were 1,570,283 permanent residents in its metropolitan area as of the 2011 census. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, Lomé is the country's administrative and industrial center, which includes an oil refinery, and its chief port, where it exports coffee, cocoa, copra, and palm kernels.

Gulf of Guinea The northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia

The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon, north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf.

Ghana Republic in West Africa

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

The two most populous language groups are the Ewe in the south (about 32% of the population) and the Kabye in the north (22% of the population). Gen or Mina is the second major language in the south, closely related to Ewe: most southern peoples use these two languages, which are spoken in commercial sectors throughout Togo. Fon, another related language, as well as Aja, are also spoken in the south: the Ewe had entered Togo from the east, and Akan people from the west, several centuries before Europeans arrived.

The Kabiye, also known as Kabye, Kabre, Cabrai', are a people living in the north central mountains and northern plains of Togo. They speak the Kabiye language. The Kabye are primarily known for farming and cultivation of harsh, dry, infertile lands of Togo. They grow cotton, millet and yams.

Gen is a Gbe language spoken in the southeast of Togo in the Maritime Region. It is also spoken in the Mono Department of Benin. It is part of the Volta–Niger branch of the major African Niger–Congo language family. Like the other Gbe languages, Gen is a tonal language.

Fon language part of the Gbe language cluster and belongs to the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo languages

Fon is part of the Eastern Gbe language cluster and belongs to the Volta–Niger branch of the Niger–Congo languages. Fon is spoken mainly in Benin by approximately 1.7 million speakers, by the Fon people. Like the other Gbe languages, Fon is an analytic language with an SVO basic word order.

Folk songs of fishermen in the south may be accompanied by bells such as the gankogui and frikiwa. Folk songs in Ewe and Kabye, are common, Fon and Yoruba songs also occur. [2] Togolese music includes a great variety of percussion-led dance music. All over Togo drums are used, by Christians and Muslims as well, to celebrate all major events of life and for festivals like the Expesoso or Yeke Yeke festival. [3] In the Aneho district alone drums in use include the agbadja, ageche, aziboloe, kple, amedjeame, akpesse, grekon, blekete and adamdom. [3] There are numerous rhythms in Togo, each area having its own special beats.

Ewe language Niger–Congo language spoken in southeastern Ghana and southern Togo

Ewe is a Niger–Congo language spoken in southeastern Ghana by approximately 6 million people as a first language and a million or so more as a second language. Ewe is part of a cluster of related languages commonly called Gbe; the other major Gbe language is Fon of Benin. Like many African languages, Ewe is tonal.

Yoruba is a language spoken in West Africa. The number of speakers of Yoruba is approaching 80 million. It is a pluricentric language spoken principally in Nigeria and Benin, with communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia, other parts of Africa, the Americas, and Europe. The non-vernacular remains of the language, Lucumi, is the liturgical language of the Santería religion of the Caribbean. Many Yoruba words are used in the Afro-Brazilian religion known as Candomblé. Yoruba is also used in many other Afro-American religions in the Americas and the Caribbean. Yoruba is most closely related to the Itsekiri language and to Igala.

Percussion instrument Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater ; struck, scraped or rubbed by hand; or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.

For further information about Ewe music and dance, see Ewe people, Ewe music, Ewe drumming

Ewe people West African ethnic group, largest in Togo

The Ewe people are an African ethnic group. The largest population of Ewe people is in Ghana with (3.3m) people, and the second largest population in Togo with (2m) people. They speak the Ewe language which belongs to the Niger-Congo Gbe family of languages. They are related to other speakers of Gbe languages such as the Fon, Gen, Phla Phera, and the Aja people of Togo and Benin.

Ewe music is the music of the Ewe people of Togo, Ghana, and Benin, West Africa. Instrumentation is primarily percussive and rhythmically the music features great metrical complexity. Its highest form is in dance music including a drum orchestra, but there are also work, play, and other songs. Ewe music is featured in A. M. Jones's Studies in African Music.

Ewe drumming refers to the drumming ensembles of the Ewe people of Ghana, Togo, and Benin. The Ewe are known for their experience in drumming throughout West Africa. The sophisticated cross rhythms and polyrhythms in Ewe drumming are similar to those in Afro-Caribbean music and late jazz. The original purpose of Ewe drumming were sung or performed by warriors. Now the songs and performed to celebrate or for recreational use. For example, Agbadza was originally used as a warrior dance but is now used to celebrate events.

In the central hills Tem and the Ghana–Togo Mountain languages are spoken. Dagomba is the second most common language in the north, where other Gur languages such as Mossi and Gourma are also found. The culture of these northern people extends far into Togo's neighbouring states, Ghana and Burkina Faso. The Dagomba people play stringed instruments such as the kologo ( xalam ) and the gonjey ), flute and voice, with poly-rhythms clapped or played on the talking drum, gourd drums or brekete. The tradition of gyil xylophone music is also common, with several players producing intricate cycling rhythms. Other folk instruments include the bow. [2] Music in the northern styles is mostly set to a minor pentatonic scale and melisma plays an important part in melodic and vocal styles, along with a long history of griot praise-singing traditions.

Togolese dances include Kamou, Soo, Tchimou, the southern royal djokoto, the war dances kpehouhuon and atsina, the hunters' dance adewu, the stilt dance tchebe, the miming masseh, as well as regional dances like the coastal sakpate and the kaka. [4]

Internationally known performer King Mensah, a former performer at the Ki-Yi M'Bock Theatre in Abidjan, toured Europe and Japan before opening his own show in French Guiana and then moving to Paris and forming a band called Favaneva. [5] Peter Solo The man of Vodoo Game Music from Togo The idea of integrating these haunting lines, sung in honor of the Divinities, to an energetic 1970s Afro-funk was an obvious extension in Peter's mind of the analogy he found between this voodoo tradition and trance inducers such as Blues, Funk, as well as the Rhythm'n Blues of James Brown, Otis Redding and Wilson Picket.Peter heard this new sound coming through him and named it Vodoo Game.

Bella Bellow is Togo's best-known musician, and is often compared with South Africa's Miriam Makeba. [6] Her career began after representing her country in 1966 at the Dakar Arts Festival. [5] She began a career singing love-oriented ballads in 1969, when she worked with Togolese-French producer Gérard Akueson and soon appeared on French national radio and then the prestigious Olympia Music Hall. [5] She toured across much of the world before dying in a car accident in 1973, just after recording the hit collaboration with Manu Dibango "Sango Jesus Christo". [5] In Bellow's wake came a wave of female singers, including Mabah, Afia Mala, Fifi Rafiatou and Ita Jourias. [5] Other musicians include Jimi Hope. Hope is known for politically incisive lyrics and an innovative rock-based style. [5]

Hip hop is on the rise, and 2003 saw the first Togo hip hop awards ceremony. [6]


  1. Togo. CIA – The World Factbook. Retrieved on 2012-01-08.
  2. 1 2 Virtual journey through Togo, music + dance
  3. 1 2 Virtual journey through Togo, Togolese drumming
  4. World Music Central
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Bensignor and Audra, pg. 435
  6. 1 2 Bensignor, Francois (2006). "Benin and Togo". In Simon Broughton; Mark Ellingham; Jon Lusk; Duncan Clark. The Rough Guide to World Music. 1 (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 39–42.

See also

Related Research Articles

The demographics of Togo include ethnicity, population density, age, education level, health, economic status and religious affiliation.

Music of Benin

Benin has played an important role in the African music scene, producing one of the biggest stars to come out of the continent in Angélique Kidjo. Post-independence, the country was home to a vibrant and innovative music scene, where native folk music combined with Ghanaian highlife, French cabaret, American rock, funk and soul, and Congolese rumba. It also has a rich variety of ethnomusicological traditions.

Music of Ivory Coast

The music of Ivory Coast includes music genres of many ethnic communities, often characterised by vocal polyphony especially among the Baoulé, talking drums especially among the Nzema people and by the characteristic polyrhythms found in rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Culture of Ghana culture of an area

Ghana is a country of 28.21 million people, comprising many native groups, such as:

The Aja are a group of people native to south-western Benin and south-eastern Togo. According to oral tradition, the Aja migrated to southern Benin in the 12th or 13th centuries from Tado on the Mono River, and c. 1600, three brothers, Kokpon, Do-Aklin, and Te-Agdanlin, split the ruling of the region then occupied by the Aja amongst themselves: Kokpon took the capital city of Great Ardra, reigning over the Allada kingdom; Do-Aklin founded Abomey, which would become capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey; and Te-Agdanlin founded Little Ardra, also known as Ajatche, later called Porto Novo by Portuguese traders and the current capital city of Benin.

Losso people

The Lossos are an ethnic and linguistic group of people living in the Doufelgou District (Préfecture) of the Kara Region in Northern Togo, West Africa. The district capital is Niamtougou which is also an important regional market town. The Lossos live on a plateau in the Togo Mountains between two mountain ranges: the Kabiyé Mountains to the South and the Défalé Chain to the North. They occupy the communities of Niamtougou, Koka, Baga, Ténéga, Siou, Djogrergou, Sioudouga, Kpadeba, Hago, Koukou, and Kounfaga. The Doufelgou District is bordered by the Kozah District to the South, by the Binah District to the East, by the Bassar District to the West, by the Kéran District to the North, and by the international border with Bénin to the Northeast.

Culture of Togo

Togo's culture reflects the influences of its 37 tribal ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, and Kabye. French is the official language of Togo, but many native African languages are spoken there as well. Despite the influence of Western religion, more than half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs.

Sub-Saharan African music traditions

African music traditions exhibit so many common features that they may in some respects be thought of as constituting a single musical system. While some African music is clearly contemporary-popular music and some is art-music, still a great deal is communal and orally transmitted while still qualifying as a religious or courtly genre.

Languages of Ghana languages of a geographic region

Ghana is a multilingual country in which about eighty languages are spoken. Of these, English, which was inherited from the colonial era, is the official language and lingua franca. Of the languages indigenous to Ghana, Akan is the most widely spoken.

Ghana–Togo relations Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Togolese Republic

The strains in Ghana–Togo relations stretch back to pre-independence days.

King Mensah musician

King Mensah known as "The Golden Voice of Togo", is one of the most popular musical acts from Togo, West Africa. Though based in Lomé, he regularly records and promotes his albums in Paris, and has embarked on several world tours since 2005. Singing in Mina, Ewe, and French, King Mensah's sound fuses elements of traditional Ewe music, and Kabye dance-drum music, with funk, reggae and West African Afropop. King Mensah's lyrical themes are steeped in religion and hopeful encouragement for the orphaned, oppressed and downtrodden.

Anlo Afiadenyigba in Volta Region, Ghana

Anlo Afiadenyigba is a town in the Volta Region of Ghana. The town is located on the southern part of the Keta Lagoon.

Dagbani music and dance is a core tradition of the Dagbamba or Dagomba people. The Dagbamba speak the Dagbani language. They are the dominant ethnic group in the chiefdom of Dagbon found in the Northern Region of Ghana. Music and dance plays a central role in Dagbon. It is through these arts that the Dagbamba have preserved their history over the centuries. The Dagbamba regard dancing as a form of emotional expression, social interaction, a spiritual performance or even physical exercise that aids them articulate or illustrate ideas or tell a story. In most cases, music in Dagbon is accompanied by dancing in order to form a complete story.


Agbadza is an Ewe music and dance that evolved from the times of war into a very popular recreational dance. It is originally done by the Ewe people of the Volta Region of Ghana, particularly during the Hogbetsotso Festival, a celebration by the Anlo Ewe people. This dance is also seen in present-day Togo and Benin.

Ewe Unification Movement

The Ewe Unification Movement was a west African ethno-nationalist effort which sought the unification of the Ewe peoples spread across what are now modern Ghana and Togo. It began as an official political movement after 1945 under the colonial mandate of French Togoland, though the ultimate goal of unifying the Ewe had been a sentiment present amongst the ethnicity's leadership and wider population since their initial colonial partitions by the British Empire in 1874, and eventually the German Empire in 1884.