Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Akogo: making the thumb piano to keep Teso culture alive

Okopa Kokas fits strands on new akogo   -  
Copyright © africanews


The akogo, one of the most popular musical instruments in Uganda. It belongs to the Iteso, who designed it centuries ago.

The thumb piano is traditionally played at sacred ceremonies like the birth of twins, marriage or a funeral.

Okopa Kokas has been making akogo since he was 15.

The 77-year-old subsistence farmer made extra money with orders for bands but today the fading of a unique sound wakes in him the urge to save what embodies the Teso culture.

“I want to teach the children of the children of this generation, so that when they grow up they can find the akogo and know that it is the culture we grew up with. And they can also ask about the different parts of the instrument”.

Except for mega traditional events, the mighty akogo mostly lies in caskets at museums.

“We have the Teso children in town who don’t even know akogo. So, when they visit the Soroti Museum, they will find them here preserved and they can see”, Peter Natsami, a guide at the Soroti Museum says. 

With the advent of computerized music production, the akogo melodies can be sequenced.

And, in the mix of wild genres, it is difficult to interest this generation in akogo sounds.

“There will come a time when God will take me away only to find that no one knows about our culture and it is dead. That is why I am encouraging the children who are interested to come and learn”.

Making the akogo was tedious back then when it needed to be curved out of a trunk.

Now with the availability of materials, it takes just a few hours to get one ready.

Kokas is selling what he has made at $5, however, it is not about money for him. It is a quest to keep the Teso culture alive while saving a sound that is slowly disappearing.

Raziah Athman, reporting for Africanews, in Soroti, Uganda.

View more