Posts Tagged ‘Sansa’
Simply beautiful, the finger harp is an integral part of African music culture that originated in sub-Saharan Africa.
In Africa it is known as the mbira, but this double-consonant word confuses many westerners, so in America it is translated into the finger harp; the name explaining the purpose of this lovely instrument.
The finger harp is played by a single musician; however it is rarely performed as a solo. More frequently, it is played as a feature of other musicians, vocalists and dancers.
If there is one word to describe the music of Africa, it is variety, and the options exist with the same instrument. For example, the finger harp is not a uniformly designed instrument. There are 33-note versions played by performers in Zimbabwe and smaller types of 6 notes the Bushmen of Kalahari use.
And it’s not just the size that varies; the name itself changes from region to region in Africa. It is mbira in Zimbabwe, but the same instrument is called the Kalimba in Kenya, the ikembe in Rwanda and likembe in the Congo.
Other names include the sanza, sansa, gourd piano, marimba, marimbula, and thumb piano. You can see why westerners are confused by this instrument as it is difficult to keep up with the names!
The kalimba was actually introduced by an Englishman named Hugh Tracey who moved to Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, to assist in the running of a tobacco farm. Tracey created a diatonic instrument similar to the mbira in the 1960s which became popular around the world.
Translated, the Kalimba means “little music” and it’s perfect for playing harmony with both thumbs. You’ll find this instrument throughout the world, particularly the Middle East, Asia and North and South America.
Regardless of how it is called, the kalimba, or mbira or finger harp has an important place in the culture of African music.
The Ensasi instrument is commonly found in traditional Ugandan music, particularly in east and central Uganda.
It is a class of musical instrument called a shaker, typically a gourd and sometimes modified to have a stick handle. The gourd is hollowed out and filled with dried seeds. This allows for a shaking motion that is a polyrhythmic companion to more melodic instruments like the mbira or fiddle.
There are various types of ensasi. For instance, in northern Uganda the device has a different shape and it produces a unique sound. This instrument moves from side to side to produce a continuous sound of beads moved within the shell.
Some ensasi have holes to produce a more hollow sound and some are made of tin and not natural vegetable material.
All musical instruments in Uganda play an important role in society. They are a large part of the history and cultural heritage of the people by their existence in the fabric of therapeutic, psychological and social planes.
Ugandan musical instruments serve different functions within various communities which accounts for broad differences across regions with one instrument. Some populations lived side by side and viewed their instruments in similar ways for like purposes, however other villages far from one another, with different politics and climate, evolved their music sometimes in opposite directions. The same material could produce a vastly different sound for different occasions.
Traditional music of this country features drums, logs, xylophones and the shakers. Along with the ensasi, other musical instruments of Uganda include the amadinda, ennanga, endingidi, engalabi, enkwanzi and the sansa.
When visiting Uganda you may be able to purchase these works of art for the eyes and ears. Along with the craft shops in the street stalls of Uganda, you can find traditional woodcarvings, basketry, and hand make instruments. You might find an ensasi to bring home to your family.
These traditional African instruments enrich the fabric of African history and culture, and contribute to the exciting opportunity of a global audience for this genre.
The Basoga and Baganda Lyre is a string instrument of lizard skin and other skins in the tradition of drums and harp. Strings are tied to wood and placed in a hole so the two arms of the lyre can connect. The “endongo” or Ganda Lyre has a single hole, the Entongoli or Soga instrument has two pieces of barkcloth, banana threads or ordinary cloth and it winds around the yoke.
Strings are wrapped around tightly until it becomes a tuning peg. An unusual feature of the Baganda and Basoga lyre is the lack of progressive order of the strings. Unlike the zither and arched harp, the highest note is the third string from the left and the lowest is the fifth lowest. Octaves are found on strings 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7.
Akindinda: This is a percussion instrument that resembles a xylophone. 200 years ago the keys were tied in place with fiber threaded through holes in the wood. However the more “modern” akadinda has two braces with carving on the bottom so it doesn’t move when placed on a countertop.
The keys of this instrument are held together with the novel method of the musician’s toes or even a young child holding them in place. The Akadinda has 17 keys although older versions had 22 keys. It took five men to play the 17 keys.
The amadinda has 12 different keys which required three men to play a unique theme. In Ugandan culture, only the most important men in society maintained the amadinda.
The Sansa is a widely popular musical instrument first reported in 1586. It has iron keys and a U-shaped foundation and keys determined by the specific ethnic group, making traditional African instruments a very personal experience in the continent.