Sunday, April 22, 2012

Borborbor Performances - Togo & Ghana

Edited by Azizi Powell

[Revised April 1, 2015]

This post showcases eight selected videos of Borborbor dance & music performances from the Ewe ethnic group of the West African nations of Togo and Ghana. This dance is also called "Bobobo Akpesse", "Bobobo", and "Akpessee".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, religious, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in this post. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the producers and publishers of these videos.

"Borborbor is the most popular style of recreational music in the Volta Region [of Ghana]. It links traditional drumming rhythms with proverbial lyrics that frequently include Christian themes. It is the ultimate blend of old and new. Borborbor is often played at celebrations and funerals. Borborbor drummers weave moderate beats while women dancers and singers revolve around them. Women singers carry two white handkerchiefs that they twirl in the air at the end of a drumming period. A bugle may be used to add spice to the music. There is usually one song leader who will sing the first line of a song and lead the people from one song to the next by combining the meanings of different songs in unique ways to evoke the spirit of the particular occasion. Everyone in the community may participate in these performances which usually begin at dusk and can continue well into the night and even until dawn. Borborbor dance is very suggestive and many boy-girl liaisons develop during these events."

"Borborbor is Ghanaian and Togolese traditional dance performed by the Ewes from mid Volta region of Ghana. The dance is specially performed during the festival of the chiefs and peoples of communities."
Here's that reference article [posted in full for folkloric purposes]
Hogbetsotso Festival is a festival of the people of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana. The theme behind this festival is to mark their journey from their former home in Togo, to their present settlement in Ghana.

The festival is a great time for the people, as this marks a great time in their history and is a time for settling disputes and getting to know each other.

History has it that before coming to their present settlement. The Anlo lived under a cruel and wicked ruler, King Agorkoli of Notsie, somewhere south of present day Sudan.

The Anlo people devised a way to escape from the town. They were led by a brave warrior known as the Red Hunter.

The town [where] they were was fenced with a mud wall, so the Anlo women were told to pour water on one side of the wall anytime they had to dispose off any water.

This made the spot soft, and the people were able to break the wall and escape. To avoid being caught, they "walked backwards" so as to confuse their pursuers and even legend has it that “The Red Hunter” turned himself into a rat and walk over all their footprints to make them look old.

When they got to their present home, they created the festival Hogbetstso (Festival of Exodus) to mark this event.

The festival has a host of other celebrations associated with it. There is a period of peace making. During this period, all outstanding disputes must be resolved. The aim is to bring the people together to live in harmony with each other.

There is also a general cleaning in the town. The whole town is swept, gutters cleaned, bushes are cleared and everywhere is kept clean. The cleaning which starts at the estuary of the Volta River, goes on until it reaches the Mono River in Benin.

This cleaning exercise is all inclusive and everyone in the town is supposed to take part. The people of Anlo believe that if they keep their surroundings clean, and they live in harmony with each other, no evil can befall.

They believe that their ancestors lived in harmony with each other all throughout their journey and that is what helped them to arrive at their destination. Therefore if they also want to be able to live in harmony, they must love one another. The cleaning continues for days until everywhere is well kept.

The highlight of the Hogbetsotso Festival celebration is a grand durbar of the chiefs and people of the town. There is drumming and dancing and merry making. The dancing is the most intriguing part, with the very popular “BORBORBOR” dance which is very intense and fun filled."
I'm not sure from this passage if the "borborbor" dance is integrally associated with the Hogbetsotso celebration or is just a popular dance that is performed at that celebration.

The examples given below attest to the fact that borborbor (and its other names) is danced to religious and non-religious music.

Additional comments about this dance are included in the summary statements of the videos found below and in comments after those videos.

These videos are presented in no particular order.

Video #1: Africana Bobobo Akpesse De Totsigan A Hedjranawoe Lome Togo Pourquoi Pas Sur

Uploaded by nestani365 on Oct 17, 2009
Here are two viewer comments about this video from

"i love this dannce soooooooooooooooooo much can some on tell me what the dance is called please????"
-gbb3b, 2011

"the name is AKPESSE South of Togo dance"
-nestani365l, 2011
In this discussion thread I asked if "Borborbor", "Bobobo Akpesse", & "Bobobo" were the same. Marquange wrote on 12/27/2012 to confirm this.

Video #2: Akpesse Bobobo - Dunenyo Bobobo , a Agomé-Kpodzi Kloto part1

Uploaded by Mawuakpe on Aug 3, 2010

Le 20/06/10 a Agomé Kpodzi dans la préfecture de Kloto au Togo , par le groupe Dunenyo Bobobo.
Regardez par vous meme

Here are two viewer comments about this video from
"Awesome!!!! I truly love this traditional African dancing, music, and unity of spirit the people show.
Can someone tell me what type of celebration it is. What is the topic of the song.
-ecmiddle1; 2011

"@ecmiddle1 this is called bobobo. it is not a celebration.. this is what is done for fun in Togo"
loloremorem; 2012

Video #3: Borborbor.AVI

Uploaded by LaurenLevine415 on Feb 22, 2010

I was very lucky to stumble upon this group of people in Ho, Ghana, who were dancing the Borborbor in their backyard-- which is a traditional Ewe cultural dance. It is usually performed after someone has died, and because many of the people are wearing black and red, the traditional funeral colors in Ghana, I suspect that this is the case.

The villagers were especially welcoming to me, even though I was by myself, and simply wandered into their yard uninvited. Many of them beckoned for me to join in, but I was shy and did not know the dance sequence. Instead, to chose to sit on the sidelines and film this video. I'm glad that I did, as it makes me smile each time I watch it.


Here's an excerpt from a very informative post about borborbor in which the author takes the position that the color of the handkerchiefs used in this dance should always be white:
"A traditional Borborbor group consists of a pair of castanets, container rattles, small drums (vuvi), supporting drum (asivu), and a master drum (vuga) but many bands now use between two and four drums. The castanets go ”kor kor kor, kor kor kor”, in triple beat in almost all borborbor music. The smaller drums basically just keep the rhythm going. It is the bass drum that provides the distinctive borborbor sound. That is why the master drummer must be good. In a typical borborbor number, the lead singer may start alone or with the accompaniment of the castanets. The drums and the chorus follow after some singing. The interchange between lead singer and chorus go on for some time through different songs. Then the bugler blows his first two notes, usually drawing out the second one as long as possible (pa paaaaaa) whereupon the dancing girls will bend down (it is not called borborbor for nothing) adding some more styles to their movements. The master drummer will raise his act sometimes following the melody of the horn, at other times inter-lacing rhythmically with it. The bugler ends his long solo on a note that cues the lead singer to take up the singing again at the same time as the dancing girls will rise up, their white handkerchiefs fluttering in the air. I have seen a group use black and red handkerchiefs. That is ugly. It is an abomination that will be sternly frowned upon by the borborbor aficionados. Anything other than white handkerchiefs detracts from the purity of the dance..." Source:

Video #4: Dela Delali -Amenuveve

Uploaded by BIGDAVOLK on Dec 11, 2007

Gospel togolais de la reine, la doyenne
I particularly love the way Dela Delali includes children in her videos. As an African American, I’m not used to seeing this type of dancing with religious songs. In the USA dancing like that is only reserved for non-religious music and would be frowned upon as sacrilege. But I realize that USA attitudes shouldn’t determine how other people combine music & dance.

Also, click for more videos of this vocalist.

Video #5: Borborbor Troupe - Tema, Ghana

Uploaded by Ghanapedia on Feb 21, 2010

This clip shows a borborbor troupe near Tema, in January 2007. This was the day before I left Ghana, and the taxi driver I had used a lot in my travels offered to take me to meet his friends to perform for me, so I obliged. They played for about half an hour, most of which I filmed, and afterwards I gave them a donation so they could buy themselves some drinks afterwards.

Video #6:[Ghana]Efo Senyo - Akpesse Borborbor - Ghana Denyigba /Etsome manya

Uploaded by Mawuakpe on Aug 23, 2010

Interprété par Efo Senyo . Extrait de l'album "Etsome Manya "
Sur cet extrait les morceaux : "Mega Tsidzi O , Ghana Denyigba , Dukplolawo , Etsome Manya "

Video #7: Borborbor

EweDanceEnsemble Uploaded on Aug 14, 2011

Video #8: Peki Venononyo borborbor group.mp4

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1 comment:

  1. The passage given above about the Hogbetsotso Festival of the people of Anlo in the Volta Region of Ghana mentions the people's ancestors walking backwards to avoid being detected when they were escaping from an evil king.

    Walking backwards to make detection harder” is central to the African American prison work song “Long John”. I wonder if the composer of that African American work song somehow retained the memory of this West African story of people who walked backwards to avoid detection.

    Click for two sound file and text examples of the song "Long John".