Keywords: Èwè-Dòmè, Storytelling, Performance, Storytelling session (Glitótó), Song interludes (Glìhàwó), Song texts (Hàgbèwó)


For the Central Èwè or Èwè-Dòmè people of Ghana’s Volta Region, storytelling is a vital practice used to transmit key lessons. For centuries the Èwè- Dòmè employed storytelling performances in initiation rites, war celebrations, wake-keeping, and praise singing to enrich the gathering by relaying important information, building group identity, and binding the community together with story, song, and dance. Storytellers and community participants point to the role that songs play within storytelling as cultural markers for the Èwè-Dòmè communities in the area around Ho, the Volta Region’s capital. Within the framework of extended family or town-wide storytelling performances, audience members habitually interrupt the story with song and dance that enlivens sleepy listeners and augments the story with an interpretive angle on the theme. Singing reverses the artist-audience roles. Other community events similarly provide an opportunity for artist-audience interaction and the reversal of roles. This paper documents the social role of songs in the context of storytelling as well as the performance practices, texts, melodies, rhythms, and harmonies of this important traditional musical genre in the face of numerous threats to its ongoing existence.

Author Biographies

Divine Kwasi Gbagbo, Ohio University
Divine Kwasi Gbagbo is a music educator, composer and director of choral art music, ethnomusicologist, and an Èwè cultural ambassador, who received his education from the University of Education, Winneba University of Ghana, and Kent State University. He is currently a PhD candidate at Ohio University.
D. Rose Elder
D. Rose Elder has collaborated with Gbagbo and has led fifteen month-long Ohio State ATI Ghana Research and Education Abroad teams to Ghana to learn about Ghanaian arts and culture and to conduct research in the arts and development studies. The ongoing research for this paper began with the 2016 tour. Elder serves as the president of Ghana Beyond Subsistence ( coordinating with the Evangelical Presbyterian Development and Relief Agency in microloan and savings with small farmers and petty traders and the Ghana Education Service to encourage partnerships and continuing education for US and Ghanaian teachers.