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Feb 2 2022

Slats and Gourds – Stories of the Ghanaian Xylophone


Celebrating the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive's 60th Anniversary

Slats and Gourds - Stories of the Ghanaian Xylophone

Three experts will present stories of the Ghanaian xylophone in celebration of the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive's 60th Anniversary.


William Matczynski is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at UCLA whose research focuses on festivals, sound, and media in Accra, Ghana—specifically in the city’s traditional Ga-Dangme communities. Matczynski recently spent twelve months in Ghana completing dissertation research supported by the Social Science Research Council and is currently working on a documentary film profiling the originators of kpanlogo music in 1960s Accra.

This presentation showcases field recordings of Ghanaian music available through the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive and the recently published online resource "Ethnomusicology: Global Field Recordings," produced in collaboration with publisher Adam Matthew Digital. In particular, the presentation will highlight sound recordings of esteemed gyil player Kakaraba Lobi from the Larry Godsey collection (1976-1977), and recordings made by Verna Gillis in various regions of Ghana during the 1970s.

Brian Hogan, Ph.D. (UCLA 2011) is a professor of ethnomusicology at Berklee College of Music, Boston.  He teaches courses focused on music of resistance, African music, and African American music. He has conducted field research on music and disability in West Africa, and he toured as a drummer and percussionist in the US and Europe.

"A Great Man Has Gone Out: The Funeral of Ghanaian Xylophonist Kakraba Lobi" is a short film by Brian Hogan, Ph.D. about the life, death, and legacy of Kakraba Lobi, an internationally renowned West African xylophonist.  The film depicts the cultural and spiritual role of the xylophone in Birifor culture and poses the question of who will continue Kakraba Lobi’s legacy of sharing Birifor music with the world.

SK Kakraba is a virtuoso of the gyil and nephew of Kakraba Lobi, one of the foremost players of the Lobi xylophone and one of the first Ghanaian Lobi xylophonists to record and tour outside of Africa. SK Kakraba is a master player in his own right and a maker of this traditional xylophone that is the national instrument of the people of northern Ghana. Having been born into a family of gyil players in an area of Ghana known for its many great musicians, SK formed a bond with the instrument at an early age.

In the video we will show during this presentation, SK plays the newly repaired gyil from UCLA and talks about the video he appeared in when Brian Hogan was doing his fieldwork in Ghana.

Part of the Global Archiving and Instrument Curation Series and the Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy Colloquium Series, sponsored by The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music Department of Ethnomusicology, The UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive, and The World Music Center at UCLA, with support from the Dean of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Register in advance for this event. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the event.