To what extent do you the xylophone?

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The xylophone also known as Gyil  in Ghana is the primary musical instrument of the Brrifos, Dagaares, Lobis, and Sisaalas ethnic groups in the Upper West Region of Ghana. The Gyil is believed to have been discovered by a hunter called Ere Vourwho went on a hurting expeditions in the forest.

The Gyil goes through four stages on assembling. The first stage is the preparation of the keys. The keys are made of dead Shea butter tree or mahogany tree also called liga in the local language. The woods are seasoned and cut into preferred size of bars. The bars which are the keys are then  roasted around a fire or oven to take out the moisture to make it completely dry. After the surface of the keys are planed to make them smooth before shaping the key to achieve the desired tone. The standard keys for xylophone in Ghana is 14 to 15.

The second stage has to do with the preparation of the frames. The frame is made of rosewood. The sizeof the frames are determined by the length of the keys. The frame has four stands, two lower stands and two higher stands. The lower stands take the high pitch gourds while the higher stands take the lower gourds. Cowhide and other skin are cut into stripes and used in tying the frames. Nylon ropes are sometimes also used to tie the frames.

The third stage has to do with the preparation and tying of the gourds. The gourds are small calabashwhich are cut and tuned to the exact pitch of each note. The gourds are tied with a nylon rope or antelope skin unto the frame of the Gyilby creating two holes at each of the sides of the mouth of the gourd. Spidersikeweb is used to cover small holes in the gourds to produce repetitive a buzzing sound, but nowadays spider sike web is replaced by either rizzala paper, plastic bags, or airmail envelop with contain both paper bags and plastic.

The fourth stage has to do with the tying of the keys, where the keys are assembled on the frame of the Gyil and tied with an twisted antelope skin or a nylon rope.

The beaters or mallets havetraditionally heads from thin stripes of rubber from the rubber treewith roundends of a moulded piece of rounded wood, which is 30 cm long and 2-3 cm diameter thick to have a strong hold in the hand.  The modern version has a circle cut from a truck tyre.

Gyil is most commonly played in pairs, but can be a solo instrument or as part of a larger group., The two people sit facing each other, a short distance apart. One playing a lead part the other a more rhythmically and harmonically repetitive support part. People learn through hearing the music at a young age, so when they start to actually play they know the music in there head and body before they begin to play. They would play the support parts for many years before beginning to playing the lead.

By: AmaningYaaWiredua

Ghana Institute of journalism

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