Term 2 Perspective Lessons & Assignments

2 West African Instruments

Musical Instruments

Instruments can be categorized into the following categories:

  • Chordophones - sound is made by vibrating strings (i.e. violin)
  • Aerophones - sound is made by vibrating air (i.e. flute)
  • Membranophones - sound is made by vibrating membrane (i.e. most drums)
  • Idiophones - sound is made by the vibration of itself (i.e. other percussion)

The family of idiophones can be further broken down into instruments that are:

  • Percussion (hit with a stick)
  • Concussion (hit together)
  • Shaken
  • Scraped
  • Plucked

African Chordophones

Kora - A plucked harp made out of a dried gourd with a cow or goat skin membrane. It is often used in praise music.

Bolon - A different harp from Mali that has less strings than the kora.

Ngoni - A three stringed type of guitar made of calabash squash and goat string. It is considered the ancestor of the modern banjo.

African Aerophones

Flutes - Present in various African cultures with different designs and names. These are tambin from the Fula tribe: a flute with three holes.

Horns - Made from the horns of domesticated animals (like goats) or wild animals (like antelope). Sound is made by buzzing into the end of the horn like a brass instrument.

African Membranophones

Djembe - One of the most common drums from across Africa. It produces three tones and is played with the hands.

Talking Drum - Uses strings to change the tension of the skin for higher and lower pitches. It is played with a stick.

Batá - Double-headed drum from Niger with an hourglass shape. It is played with the hands.

Bembé Drums - From the region of Bembé in Nigeria. These drums are considered the ancestor of the conga drum.

African Idiophones

These idiophones produce a sound by being hit.

Bankogui - Like the Latin agogo bell, it is a joined set of two different sized bells. It is played with a stick.

Balafon - An ancestor of the xylophone. The instrument has 16-26 tuned sticks of wood called bars. The hollow gourds underneath the bars provide resonance. It is played with wooden mallets.

The idiophones produce a sound by being shaken.

Shekere - Body is made of a hollow gourd. A net covered in seeds or shells covers the body and makes the shaking sound.

Caxixi - A basket shaker made of a woven basket filled with seeds with a round bottom made of gourd.

Rakatak - Hardened dried gourd slices placed in a row on a stick.

Cascas - Made of two wooden balls filled with seeds that are connected on a cord. The balls can be shaken or swung around and hit together.

Juju Rattle - Juju beans tied together with a string.

These idiophones produce a sound by being plucked.

Mbira or Kalimba - Also known as the thumb piano. It has metal tines (thin bars) attached to a box or gourd for resonance. It is played by plucking the metal tines with the thumb or fingers.