The agogo is a welded metal resonator played with a single stick, usually with two or three tuned ‘bells’ although sometimes more. Possibly the instrument that has changed the least over time, it still bears close resemblance to it’s ancient Yoruban namesake. In construction, sound and the character of typical patterns it is also close to many other west african bells, european cowbells and the larger gongue of Brazilian folkloric music. The agogo’s presence in other cultural and religious contexts, and the associations of it’s sound and rhythms, represent a core of history and tradition to many when used in today’s baterias.
The agogo’s relatively warm mid-range sound and potentially clamorous ‘badly tuned section effect’ has made it a victim of current sonic trends in the modern bateria sound. Although much less numerous in the escola de samba baterias except as a special feature, there are still some players in almost every one, and the instrument is nothing short of essential in many other musical settings and styles of music.
To get to the essence of samba, don’t forget to learn all those old agogo patterns.
Find out more about learning or playing with the Unidos em Ritmo bateria here