Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Out on Parrish beach on the afternoon of Tuesday September 11, a group of interested students gathered around a woman playing a unique instrument. The woman was Gina Ferrera, a Philadelphia-based musician who plays the gyil, a Ghanaian xylophone-like instrument. Ferrera’s connection to Swarthmore is facilitated by Anna Grant, ’10, and they hope to begin offering informal lessons on the gyil for students this semester.
Ferrera first heard the gyil played the summer before her senior year in college. “Most people don’t forget the gyil,” she said to the group. Ferrera definitely didn’t. She began studying the gyil that year and went to Ghana right after college was over, even missed her graduation. She now travels to Ghana as often as she can and plays and records music with a fusion band. Of her life playing the gyil, she said, “I’ve had nothing but great experiences.”
The gyil is a unique instrument made of wood and gourds. The gourds have holes in them that are then plugged with spider egg sacks mixed with resin or paper film. This creates a unique buzzing noise when the instrument is played. Amongst gyil players this buzzing is known as being “for the ancestors.” The music is usually played with two gyil players that interact and alternately solo and support each other.
“I thought it [the performance] was really amazing,” said Nuvia Hassan, ’08. “The sound was wonderful.” Grant and Ferrera will now try to coordinate times for the informal classes by gauging the interest and time flexibility of the interested students. Contact Anna Grant (agrant2) for more information.