• South of the Sahara

    Traditional Instruments

    African musical instruments today include a wide variety of traditional instruments (below) plus modern Western instruments such as electric guitars, saxophones, basses, trumpets, and keyboards of all types. The names of instruments vary with each region and tribe. 

    Idiophones (main parts vibrate)

    Dawuro - one of many types of single iron bells shaped like a curled up leaf; played with a metal beater  Dawuro
    Gankogui - metal double bell found throughout West Africa; played with a wooden stick  gankogui
    Thumb Piano or Mbira (also known as sansa or kalimba) - a hand-held hollow box of board with metal tongues plucked with thumbs; often played inside a large gourd resonator; may have bottle caps or other metal attached to produce a buzzing sound  mbira
    Xylophone - wooden keys played with mallets; may have gourd resonators under each key  xylophone
    Shekere - a medium-sized calabash gourd which has outer netting with attached seeds or shells shekere  
    Slit Drums or log drums - also known as slit gongs are large hollow logs played with large wooden beaters; they are the ancient relatives of the modern wood block or tongue drums.  Slit Drum

    Membranophones (membrane vibrates)

      SOGO a barrel drum found among the Ewe people of Ghana; played with hands or sticks
     Sogo Drum
    Frame Drums - may be round or rectangular; played with the hand
    frame drum
    Djembe -  a goblet-shaped drum played throughout West Africa  Djembe


    Aerophones (air column vibrates)

     Natural Horn - made from an animal horn; blown like a trumpet  natural horn
    Flute- natural wooden flutes of all sorts are played throughout Africa. (The flute comes in around the 45 second mark.  What other instruments is featured?)
    African Wooden Flute
    Panpipes - a bundle of reeds or hollow wooden tubes of graduated lengths; played by blowing over the top

    Chordophones (string(s) vibrate)

    Story- a single stringed instrument; played by plucking or hitting the string with a stick; often with an attached gourd resonator
     African Bow
    Tube Zither - strings (may be from the body of the tube) around a hollow wooden tube  Tube Zither
    Arched Harp - one of many types of stringed harp-like instruments found throughout part of Africa; plucked  arched harp  


Last Modified on February 10, 2020