The gankeke is an instrument that belongs to the group of direct percussion idiophones. It is designed to provide a rhythm that drummers, singers and accompanying vocalists can follow. It is a kind of double bell with no internal clappers, made from two pieces of iron, rolled into long funnel shapes and joined together at both ends with a space between them. The pointed top of the bells is rolled into a ring, which the musician can use to hold the instrument.
The gong is played in most of southern Benin cultures, but its shape can vary from one region to another, depending on what it is used for. In the Adja-Fon cultural area, small gongs (20 to 30 cm) are used primarily in folk groups. There are also bigger gongs that can be up to 50 cm in length. These are most often played exclusively by religious orchestras or on the occasion of some funeral ceremonies. The instrument is played mostly by men.
On the other hand, the zangbetohoun is a musical group of the secret Zangbeto society. Its purpose is to ensure the safety of the kingdom. These groups only play gongs. The first gong sets the rhythm and a chorus of gongs follows it, accompanied by a human voice.
Besides being a musical instrument, the gong is also a means of communication between the king and his subjects by means of a wandering musician called the kpanligan. This bard is responsible for singing about the genealogy of Dahomey kings or bringing information to the attention of the public. Thus, each reverberation has a precise meaning and conveys a message that can be understood by the initiated. Unfortunately, this form of knowledge is dying out in our culture.