The average size of the agogo bell ranges from 10 to 11 inches. The larger bell usually has a diameter of 3.5 inches while the smaller bell has a diameter of 2.75 inches. The size can vary though. This African bell is also known as the gonkogui, gankoqui or gangkogui.
Characteristics of the Agogo Bell
The agogo can be a single or multiple bells. These bells are constructed of metal. Many of the bells come in different sizes. This helps in producing a unique pitch. The sound produced will also depend on where it is hit.
The ones originally made in Africa were of cast iron. Today various kinds of metals are used to make the bell. This has also resulted in various sizes of the agogo coming out. The end result is that the bells generate different sounds.
The bells may be arranged in different ways. The most common is to have the two bells connected by a U shaped metal. The small bell is held highest. Either one of the bells is hit with a wood stick. This will produce a sound similar to a cowbell. A clicking sound is produced when the two bells are squeezed tight.
The musical instrument is widely used in the religious music in Yorubaland. It is also used when a dignitary is arriving. The instrument is associated with Orisa Nla and Obatala, two Yoruba gods.
Its origin is still subject to debate, but it is possible they were made by the Bantu tribe following their settlement in Western Africa. While the instrument is used frequently in Nigerian Yoruba music, it evidently has a practical purpose too.
Joachim John Moteiro, who went to the Congo River and Angola during the early 19th century, said locals used various sizes of the agogo to relay warnings about imminent danger.
The slave trade in the Caribbean and South America led to the exportation of these instruments. Its influences can be seen in Afro-Caribbean music.
Remnants of the early agogo show the two bells are of substantially different sizes. However, the modern agogo bells differ by only a couple of inches. The contemporary agogo bells also have a lighter and higher note. The traditional agogo bell on the other hand, has a lower tone.
While the new ones are held together by the U shaped metal, the older ones are not. The traditional bells don’t get squeezed together either. Also some of the newer bells can come in threes, not just two.
These days the agogo bells are still associated with African and Latin music. However there are also musicians who incorporate it into their music.
How to Take Care of the Agogo Bells
To avoid rust, you should use 0000 (very fine) steel wool. Just rub this on the bells with a soft cloth. A couple of minutes will be fine. Don’t use oil on the bell’s surface.
The size of the agogo bells will determine how long it takes to clean. Just make sure to follow the package instructions to avoid problems.