Gyil Research

Searching for Orifa: Birifor Funeral Music from Ghana featuring Tijan Dorwana and Mike Vercelli

Our new CD recording of the complete Birifor funeral music is now available!  This CD is the first to record the Birifor funeral music in a studio setting and include the Na Kpan Bine, a special piece for the Birifor hunters. Audio samples are under the Media

CDs can be ordered  here 

Please download a free copy of the complete liner notes!

Searching for Orifa Liner Notes


 Sounds of the Desert: Liga Gyil

Sounds of the Desert: Liga Gyil is a collaborative project featuring master Dagara gyil virtuoso Bernard Woma and Mike Vercelli.  The gyil heard in this recording is a traditional 18-key Dagara instrument, rarely heard in the US.  This particular instrumen was graciously loaned for this recording by Dr. Steve Hemphill, percussion director at Northern Arizona University.  Audio samples can be heard under Media.

CDs can be ordered Here

Please download a free copy of the complete liner note!

Sounds of the Desert Liner Notes




The Dagara-Birifor gyil is a fourteen-key xylophone constructed from the locally grown rosewood (Dalbergia Melanoxylon) or nirra in the Birifor language and dry gourd resonators fastened together with goat or antelope hide.  A thin fibrous paper or spider cocoons covering small holes in the gourd resonators creates the instrument’s characteristic buzzing sound.  Tuning the bars takes considerable skill and a small hand ax.  Two varieties of instruments exist and are discernable by their tuning: the kogyil used exclusively for funerals are tuned to pentatonic scale; and the bogyil, used for primarily for festivals and recreation is tuned to a tetratonic scale (B-flat, D-flat, E-flat, G-flat).

I have been studying gyil with master musicians Bernard Woma and Tijan Dorwana since 2002.  I am currently working on several gyil projects including collaborative recordings with Mr. Woma and Mr. Dorwana.




My D.M.A. Document contains many detailed transcriptions of Dagara and Birifor music:

Performance Practice of the Dagara-Birifor Gyil Tradition Through the Analysis of the Bewaa and Daarkpen Repertoire


This article addresses issues of ritual communication for the modern percussionist:

Ritual Communication Through Percussion: Identity and Grief Governed by Birifor Gyil Music


Accompanying Instruments

The gangaa and lar drums typically accompany a gyil performance.  More research will be posted here on these instruments soon!

Gangaa drum

Lar drums


Comments are closed.