Bwiti Traditional Creative Expressions

Bwiti traditional music, instruments, dances, and their Creative Expression

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Traditional music is an important part of Gabonese culture, and it is played during ceremonies and rituals. 

Although there are many different instruments used in these traditional ceremonies, the Ngoma drum is the most important traditional instrument in Gabon. 

It’s usually played by a group of drummers who play together to make a strong rhythm that helps everyone involved feel energized and joyful.

 Among the most common traditional instruments used in Bwiti rituals are:

What you will learn:

  • The Mvet (a wooden wind instrument)
  • The Kanza (a wooden percussion instrument)
  • The Nkonting (a bamboo flute)
  • The Ngoma (wooden drum)

Traditional dances are performed wearing masks made from wood, straw, or raffia fibers to represent different spirits.

You can also listen or read our podcast on AFRICAN TRADITIONAL DAY focusing on the plant Iboga.

1. The first Bwiti Traditional Instrument Is the Ngoma Drum

The Ngoma drum is the most important instrument in Bwiti. It is typically played by two people, one beating the drum and another accompanying him or her with a rattle. 

The Ngoma drum can be heard at most religious ceremonies and social gatherings, such as funerals or weddings. 

However, it is particularly important at funerals because it helps encourage the spirit of the deceased to leave this world and enter a new one. 

The Ngoma drums are often played in special rooms called “ngomas” (or “bukus”), where they’re kept safe from harm until they’re needed for an event like a funeral or wedding celebration.

The Ngoma represents the life force of the deceased and is used to help them leave this world. Ngomas are also played during ceremonies to encourage the spirit of the deceased to leave the land of the living.

This is important because if it doesn’t happen quickly enough then we risk seeing that person again in our dreams or nightmares which would mean that he didn’t have enough time to properly transition over into his new life after death – a very bad thing for both parties involved! 

The Ngoma drum is played in sets of two or three drums, which are played by men and women respectively.

2. Pygmy flutes and wooden xylophones may also be used in Bwiti music rituals

Bwiti music rituals also employ a variety of traditional instruments, including flutes and xylophones. The pygmies make these instruments from bamboo or wood, and they are used to communicate with their ancestors. 

The most common type of flute is the “Ngondi,” which measures approximately 8 inches in length; it produces a high-pitched sound. 

For xylophones, there are two main types: Gombe sese (made from wood) and Gombe bwa (made from brass).

3. Bwiti rituals and ceremonies

The Mvet is a harp-like traditional instrument used to accompany Bwiti rituals and ceremonies.

The Mvet, or “harp of the ancestors,” is a harp-like traditional instrument used to accompany Bwiti rituals and ceremonies. It’s made from wood, straw, or raffia fibers and is usually played by women.

The strings are made from twisted palm leaves that produce a sound similar to a harp. The Mvet operator holds the instrument vertically with both hands on a wooden handle at its top end, which has two small bells attached to it for added resonance.

4. Other types of traditional instruments include whistles, rattles, and clappers

These are made from wood or bamboo.

Wooden rattles are cylindrical with two ends and wooden bars across one end (for striking). The other end has a handle so it can be held in your hand while you shake it up and down rhythmically. 

Rattles are also referred to as “rattlers” or “drummers” by some tribes because they use them during dances to give commands to the dancers and keep time with their music.

Rattlers/drums can measure anywhere from 30 cm x 15 cm x 10 cm up to 1 meter x 30 cm x15 cm! 

They come in many shapes, sizes, and designs with each tribe having its own unique version that has been passed down through the generations since before humans even settled on this planet!

Traditional dances are often performed wearing masks made from wood, straw, or raffia fibers. The dancer wears the mask over his or her face and body. Masks are used to communicate a message to the audience.

Both men and women perform traditional dances using masks but in different ways. When men dance with masks, they may signal their intentions by swinging their heads back and forth slowly and gracefully as they march in formation. 

Women wear smaller masks than men do; these masks can be worn on top of the head or held in one hand while performing repetitive movements such as waving arms overhead with bent knees.

It’s not unusual for the participants to dance barefoot, except perhaps for some loose footwear such as raffia sandals or sandals made from dried leaves. Other examples of footwear that might be worn during dance performances and rituals include:

Some people who participate in dance performances paint their bodies with symbolic designs before taking part in a ritual or ceremony. 

The designs are usually painted on the body using natural materials such as plant resins or mud, and sometimes paints are made from natural materials. 

For example, a man might have his chest painted red to symbolize that he is ready for battle. If someone is dancing to express grief over the death of a loved one, they may paint black lines around their eyes and mouth to show sadness.

Some cultures use temporary tattoos instead of painting their bodies because they believe that painting can interfere with spiritual experiences during ceremonies such as initiation rites and healing sessions.


Music and dance are important parts of Gabonese culture. They have been used for centuries to express feelings, tell stories, and bring people together for social events like funerals or weddings. 

Traditionally, Bwiti music has been played on the Ngoma drum which is similar to a conga drum made from animal hide stretched over a wooden frame with cowbells attached at each corner. 

The Mvet is another type of traditional instrument commonly used during ceremonies involving drinking psychoactive plants such as iboga bark or ibogaine leaf juice which can lead people into an altered state of consciousness while leaving them conscious enough to play their instruments!

Helpful Resources

1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a government-funded research organization that provides information and resources on addiction and substance abuse. Their website offers resources specifically tailored to the pandemic, including information on telehealth and online support groups.

2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA is a government agency that provides information and resources on addiction and mental health. Their website offers resources specifically tailored to the pandemic, including a national helpline for individuals who are struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

3. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): AA is a support group for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. AA has moved many of its meetings online, providing a safe and accessible way for individuals to connect with others who understand their struggles.

4. Narcotics Anonymous (NA): NA is a support group for individuals struggling with drug addiction. Like AA, NA has moved many of its meetings online, providing a safe and accessible way for individuals to connect with others who understand their struggles.

5. Mental health professionals: Mental health professionals such as therapists and counselors can provide individualized support and guidance for individuals struggling with addiction during the pandemic. Many mental health professionals offer teletherapy, a form of therapy conducted over the phone or through video conferencing.

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From aiding individuals in overcoming addiction to guiding seekers on transformative spiritual experiences rooted in the Bwiti tradition, we bring passion, experience, and holistic solutions to every aspect of our work.

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