The purpose of African Wind Instruments is quite different from the musical instruments of the United States and Europe.
In Africa, musicians do not seek to produce a lyrical and melodious sound that is always pleasing to the ear. There is a message in the music of Africa that is conveyed through the centuries from this second largest continent in the world.
The most commonly used instrument in World Music is percussion. Whether it is a drum, rattle, bells, clapper or rattle, percussion speaks a language that bridges the many cultures and the 50 countries which comprise the African continent.
Wind instruments are not as prominent as drums in the music of this culture. Their construction incorporates all natural materials made available by nature and produce a more subtle sound. For example, some wind instruments are made from conch shells, animal tusks and horns or wood and gourds.
Pre-made musical instruments can be very expensive to buy in Africa so from an early age children are taught how to make their own. In addition to the elements found in nature, children construct wind instruments from household items like pipes or even corn stalks.
As the sound of air passing over the material changes with the material itself, wind instruments in Africa have a very unique tonal quality. Whether it is an ocarina, oboe, panpipe or whistle, these instruments add to the complex nature of the music. Virtually anything can be used to create a wind instrument, even a can of soda pop.
Because traditional African music is not passed down in writing in the way music composition is passed to the next generation in the west, the instruments create patterns to the sound which are altered by the tone of the language. It is the pattern of the music and African Wind Instruments that gets carried forth through the generations.