Table 9. Item 4 (Afovu), response theme characteristics

  1. Theme one is two beats long; it serves as the “holding pattern” for the transition between themes, as well as a theme on its own. Time values are shown as dotted eighths because the pairs of notes tend to be “stretched” in time from triplets towards true duplets.
  2. Like theme one, theme two starts on the RTP, which is unusual in Ewe musical style. Together with themes three, four and five, theme two spans twelve pulses, identical to one bell cycle. The predominant accentuation is on beats one and three of the four-feel.
  3. Like themes four and six, theme three begins on bell stroke two, which is also the stroke on which the bell phrase itself is thought to start. Whereas theme two accentuates beats one and three of the four-feel, theme three accentuates beats two and four—the “back beats,” so to speak, of the bell cycle. In both themes two and three, a single note with quarter note time value links the phrase’s opening and closing figures.
  4. The response drum of theme four doubles the rhythm of high-pitched drum 1. With the lead drum also sounding the same rhythm, theme four so strongly highlights the six-feel and the three-feel that listeners frequently experience a perceptual shift away from the fundamental ternary-quadruple orientation.
  5. The placement of theme five—stretching from pulse ten of one bell cycle to pulse nine of the next—distinguishes it from other themes. The timing of the resonant mid-pitch strokes is written as dotted eighths since the pairs of notes starting on onbeats usually are played in a “swing eighth” manner. The muted higher-pitched strokes are shown as eighths to convey the way drummers can move at will among the several ways of interpreting the internal structure of beats.
  6. The long time spans of themes six and seven stretch over two bell cycles. Theme six consists of three occurrences of the offbeat figure “ki kidi.” In its first and third appearances this figure in is unison with bell strokes two, three and four. Agbeli would say, “Composers ‘take source’ from the bell,” meaning that rhythmic fragments extracted from the bell phrase are used as the basis for drumming phrases. Theme six perfectly exemplifies this practice. Offbeat in the four-feel, its notes become onbeat in the six-feel. The lead drum may play in unison with the first and last bounces in each three-note figure, thus accentuating the third time points within ternary beats, an example of displacement.
  7. Like theme six, theme seven has three appearances of the same four-note figure but in this case the third figure is followed by a shorter fourth figure. In the way its two strokes mimic the way the four-note figures begin, I hear the fourth figure as a good example of the well-known trope of African-influenced art—“repetition with a difference.” Its short duration confounds the expectation created by the thrice-repeated longer figure, enhancing the dramatic use of space to allow bell strokes one and two to emerge in listeners’ consciousness. Theme seven is extremely multidimensional in its pattern of accentuation—it easily fits into both four- and six-feels.