Learn about Esan Musical Instruments – The Most Popular

You are currently viewing Learn about Esan Musical Instruments – The Most Popular

Excited to know about the Esan music and musical instruments? You have come to the right place. Here we are going to discuss a short background of Esan music and the most popular musical instruments. So, without wasting a single moment, let’s get started! Join our Content Creation Academy

Esan music

Esan, Nigeria is situated in Western Africa. Therefore, its music goes back to general African music. Traditional African music is the genre that was originally associated with pre-colonial Africans. Music in Africa is very functional since no event passes by without profuse music-making in African societies.

Interestingly, this music has its own unique characteristics. However, it is too varied to be straight generalized. Why so? Because Africa is highly aboriginal and three times larger than America. In spite of 700 different languages spoken there, urbanization, Christianity, and related industrial developments, more than half of the communities in the continent still hold their religious values.

Musical instruments of Esan

So, here comes the interesting thing about Esan’s musical instruments.

The musical instruments in Esan are basically divided into four main categories:

  • Aerophones,
  • Chordophones,
  • Idiophones, and
  • Membranophones

Now let’s see the most popular musical instruments of Esan

1.  Akala

A famous musical instrument of Esan Akala is often called “Aka” in some versions. It is a native flute having the sound of “vuvuzela” which is similar to a trumpet sound. Akala is usually played in the dance or acrobatic displays of IGBABONELIMIN dancers. Moreover, the Akala player needs to be mentally alert and conscious, in case of any change in the rhythm of the dance.

2.  Akpata

AKPATA (Akpata-mamwe), also can Afan is an Edo harp, bow lutes instrument, a guitar having separate string carriers that are fixed to a resonator. Strings run parallel and lie to the sound table at oblique angles. A plectrum or fingers can be used to sound Akpata by plucking its strings. Oftentimes, the strings are bowed, and sometimes it is also played with open strings.

Akpata is an ancient Esan musical instrument and also a well-known African musical instrument that indigenous African people used. Since it is a string instrument, it sounds like a guitar when played.

3.  Ukoise

Ukoise (also called Okose and Kokose) is an Edo musical instrument similar to a rattle. It is made up of calabash (dried gourds) that are hollowed out and loosely covered with a beaded string meshed into a net.

The beaded string is often made with small shells, beads, cowries, seedpods, or wood pieces. This well-known Esan musical instrument is widely used across Africa/Nigeria as well as among Edo’s ethnic nationalities. Ukoise is usually rhythmically shaken with hands in flow with the beat of the music.

4.  Agogo

An agogo (meaning bell) was originated from traditional Yoruba and Edo music but now used throughout the world. Agogo was basically West African Yoruba bells and maybe the oldest samba instrument. The pitch of agogo is the highest of bateria instruments. Each bell of the instrument is a different size. These bells produce differently pitched notes depending on which bell is hit.

Also, the bells of agogo are made of a variety of sizes and metals for different sound qualities. The most common arrangement of bells in agogo is two bells attached by a U-shaped metal piece. A cowbell or clicking sound is produced by hitting the bells with a wooden stick or squeezing them together.

5.  The talking drum

It is probably the most popular drum from Africa, mostly found in West African countries including Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, and the Benin Republic. It is basically an hourglass-shaped drum that can mimic the prosody and tone of human speech by proper regulation of its pitch.

The talking drum has two drumheads connected through leather tension cords. These cords allow the variation in the pitch of the drum by squeezing between the arms and body of the player. A skilled player can play whole phrases, however, most talking drums even sound like a human humming.

6.  Ema Ugie

Ema Ugie (festival drums) are membranophone instruments in which the sound is produced as a stretched membrane is vibrated through hands, sticks, or a combination of both. A deep and sonorous pitch is produced if the fingers do not press any part of the membrane, whereas, if a part of the membrane is pressed and the remaining portion is made to vibrate, the pitch is higher.

These festival drums are often used in important festivals and are pegged. They are played by men only. According to a tradition, this Edo drum was invented during the reign of Oba Ewuare the great who wanted a drum that could imitate the sound of raindrops into a brass dish.

7.  Clapper

It is a basic form of percussion instrument consisting of two solid pieces struck together to produce sound. A clapper is a straightforward musical instrument to play and produce. It can take numerous forms and can be made of different varieties of materials; most commonly wood, but ivory and metal are also used.

Moreover, they exist in different cultures across the world. A plastic-made thunderstick that is popularly used in sporting events nowadays, can also be considered a form of an inflated plastic clapper.


The traditional music in Esan is an independent art by no means. It is highly interlinked with dance, drama, history, poetry, oral tradition, and oral literature. On the other hand, the musical instruments have been christened generally as artificial sound-producing instruments.

They are so-referred to since the only natural source of sound production is the human voice which is God’s creation.

Moreover, a major and popular way of music-making in Esan is singing in which a vast range of tone and vocal techniques are employed. The above-mentioned are the most popular musical instruments of Esan.

If you find any value in this post, share also with your friends who might need it.  Join our Content Creation Academy

Leave a Reply