You cannot talk about Benin without mentioning Porto-Novo and it is impossible to describe the city without referring to the poetic music of the adjogan where song and dance mingle.

First of all, I would like to clear up the confusion about the instrument and its music. The instrument is called the alounloun and the music it plays is called adjogan. But what is the alounloun and where did it come from? The alounloun is a stick about one meter long, with a centre spindle of copper-clad iron with rings that slide up and down to produce the harmony of its music. To find out where it came from, we must go Back in history.

In the beginning, the alounloun was a stick symbolizing the power of the king of Allada (a kingdom in southern Benin). Te-Agdanlin, founder of the kingdom of Porto-Novo, inherited it from his father King De-Kopkon when he died. He took the alounloun with him during the migration towards south-eastern Benin where he created the kingdom of Hogbonou (Porto-Novo). When he in turn died, and then from one generation to another, the alounloun underwent various transformations depending on the taste and aspirations of each king. It was really transfor Read More
You cannot talk about Benin without mentioning Porto-Novo and it is impossible to describe the city without referring to the poetic music of the adjogan where song and dance mingle.

First of all, I would like to clear up the confusion about the instrument and its music. The instrument is called the alounloun and the music it plays is called adjogan. But what is the alounloun and where did it come from? The alounloun is a stick about one meter long, with a centre spindle of copper-clad iron with rings that slide up and down to produce the harmony of its music. To find out where it came from, we must go Back in history.

In the beginning, the alounloun was a stick symbolizing the power of the king of Allada (a kingdom in southern Benin). Te-Agdanlin, founder of the kingdom of Porto-Novo, inherited it from his father King De-Kopkon when he died. He took the alounloun with him during the migration towards south-eastern Benin where he created the kingdom of Hogbonou (Porto-Novo). When he in turn died, and then from one generation to another, the alounloun underwent various transformations depending on the taste and aspirations of each king. It was really transformed into a musical instrument by King De-Gbeyon to pay homage to the shades of his ancestors.

In time, this instrument was played not only to pay homage to dead kings but also to living kings, during their enthronement or for the consecration of mito (ministers of the king) by the ahossi (wives of the king within the royal court). The wives lined up in rows of six each, accompanied by others who played gongs or clapped their hands. The instrument was also played in the villages controlled by the king of Porto-Novo in his honour. It is the same thing today. But in modern times, the king no longer takes as many wives and the musicians’ role now falls on the wives of the princes. The alounloun was also played during the five dynasties of Porto-Novo when the sovereign was chosen in rotation and in Catholic churches during processions and parades celebrating Epiphany to pay homage to Christ, King of the Universe. When it was introduced into the Catholic Church of Porto-Novo, the alounloun underwent certain modifications. The crested bird, symbol of King Kokpon, was replaced by the cross, symbolizing Christianity.

If you ever come to Benin, do not miss an opportunity to see and hear this instrument. You will be very impressed.

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Alounloun

Alounloun (Stamping Stick)

Porto-Novo (Ouémé Department)

"Alexandre Sènou Adandé" Ethnographic Museum, Benin

© "Alexandre Sènou Adandé" Ethnographic Museum, Benin


The stamping stick, commonly called the alounloun, is a musical instrument that belongs to the organological family of idiophones. It is an instrument of the royal court of the old kingdom of Hogbonou (now Porto-Novo). The stamping stick was inherited by King Te-Agdanlin from his father Kokpon when the dispute between the two brothers created the kingdoms of Allada and Dahomey respectively in the early 17th century. A descendant of Te-Agdanlin, De-Gbeyon, transformed the stick into a musical instrument during his reign (1765-1775). From that time on, it has been used to accompany the songs praising the king. The instrument is played only by women.

Roman Catholic evangelism and the Vatican II Council led Father Francis Aupiais, parish priest of Porto-Novo in the 1930s, to inaugurate an Epiphany procession through the city. The alounloun was played on this occasion in honour of Jesus, king of kings and the Wise Men.

The alounloun is a finely worked iron bar covered in copper with rings that manually slide up and down the stick to produce music. It has a handle in the shape of a bird with a coiled crested neck as well as a spindle and a pad.

When t Read More
The stamping stick, commonly called the alounloun, is a musical instrument that belongs to the organological family of idiophones. It is an instrument of the royal court of the old kingdom of Hogbonou (now Porto-Novo). The stamping stick was inherited by King Te-Agdanlin from his father Kokpon when the dispute between the two brothers created the kingdoms of Allada and Dahomey respectively in the early 17th century. A descendant of Te-Agdanlin, De-Gbeyon, transformed the stick into a musical instrument during his reign (1765-1775). From that time on, it has been used to accompany the songs praising the king. The instrument is played only by women.

Roman Catholic evangelism and the Vatican II Council led Father Francis Aupiais, parish priest of Porto-Novo in the 1930s, to inaugurate an Epiphany procession through the city. The alounloun was played on this occasion in honour of Jesus, king of kings and the Wise Men.

The alounloun is a finely worked iron bar covered in copper with rings that manually slide up and down the stick to produce music. It has a handle in the shape of a bird with a coiled crested neck as well as a spindle and a pad.

When the instrument was introduced into Catholic Church services in Porto-Novo, it underwent some changes. The crested bird, symbol of Kokpon, was replaced by the cross symbolizing the Christian religion.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Alounloun: Audio

Alounloun: Audio

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiques arabes et méditerranéennes Ennejma Ezzahra, Musée de la musique, Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde, Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université d'Antananarivo, Musée ethnographique Alexandre Sènou Adande, Musée national du Mali, St. Boniface Museum, Lycée de langues étrangères Alexandre Dumas, Museum of the Romanian Peasant

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand that music is an expression in all cultures
  • Understand that the relationship between personal feelings and music transcends borders and cultures
  • Develop respect for music from a variety of cultural contexts
  • Examine traditional music practices in selected Francophone countries
  • Demonstrate geographical awareness by identifying Francophone countries
  • Be aware of the musical contributions of various cultural groups in their own community
  • Understand that all world music can be organized within a standard classification system

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans