Posts Tagged ‘African instruments’
Most African instruments are divided by various categories: Balafons, Percussion, Shakers, Kalimbas, Strings, Bells, and Udus. Here are some examples.
To the Western eye and ear, balafons appear as xylophones and they come from Ghana. The musician who plays the balafon is usually a vocalist too. The balafon offers both rhythm and melody and has keys made from the Shea Butter tree. Only trees which have been dead for long periods of time are considered dry enough for this purpose.
Wood is cut and dried further over fires built in pits in the ground. The strips of wood are cut into keys and a sharp knife does finish work for tuning. Balafons are also made with metal keys to create a unique sound. Gourds support the frame and amplify the sound and rubber beaters are fashioned out of old truck tires. A balafon from Ghana costs $79.00 to $430.00.
Shakers are an African music tradition and there are roughly 25 different kinds commercially available. Most shakers are made of wood however some are made of beads, leather, woven reed, seed pods, coconut, even goat toes!
Gourd shakers are the most common and they are held in the hand and shaken back and forth to produce a rhythmic noise. These can be as long as 10 inches long and cost from $14.00 to $49.00.
Some musicians tie shakers to their ankles as well so they can produce an even more complicated sound originating in their dance. Ankle rattles tie at the bottom of the leg and they are made of seed pods and clacking goat toes.
Bells are a part of African music tradition and historically were used to send messages between villages. Ghana is a top producer of bells, along with Cameroon and Nigeria and they cost from $12.00 to $34.00.
Much different from the west, African instruments are colorful and lively extensions of the earth.
Diversity in African music instruments is what gives them their unique sound quality. African instruments include a range of string and percussion devices with cultural and religious significance.
Here are some typical musical instruments from Uganda:
Kikuyu: This is a type of fiddle made from a gourd. In Africa children often make their own instruments and they are taught how to do this from an early age. It is not uncommon for four year olds to make instruments for themselves and this is something they can handle.
Engalabi: A traditional percussion instrument resembling a long, small drum. It has a reptile skin that is nailed to the wooden frame. Lately the Ugandan government has discouraged the practice of using reptile skin but the tradition continues. This instrument is played with bare hands.
Enkwanzi: A panpipe also called an oburere. It means “little flutes” and it is made from bamboo or elephant grass. The nodules on the grass block the passage of air and gives the instrument its pitch. The reeds are assembled, large to small and tied together with string. Western flutes with finger holes are believed to have evolved from this ancient musical device.
Ensasi: A shaker made of two gourds with stick handles used to accompany other instruments in traditional Ugandan music especially in the eastern and central region. In northern Uganda there is a unique sound because the beads move side to side in a tin shell or gourd with several holes.
Basoga Lyre: Made with lizard skin and tied with animal skin like the drums and harp. Strings are assembled with wood woven through holes. The Endongo, or Danda Lyre has one hole and the Entongoli, or Soga, has two pieces of banana fibers or barkcloth around the yoke.
As you can see, these instruments are quite different from the ones cultivated in Europe, and the musical experience is equally wondrous with African music instruments.