Organological Classification

Book I of African Polyphony and Polyrhythm closes with Simha Arom dividing the functions of musical instruments from the Central African Republic into five different categories:

  1. The most important use is their modal and/or rhythmic support for vocal music.
  2. Sometimes, such as with the Banda horn ensembles, they are purely instrumental.
  3. For transmitting messages that would otherwise be spoken, they use wooden slit drums or whistles.
  4. In order to create a connection with supernatural powers, the community uses certain instruments.
  5. Some instruments are rarely used because they are symbols of spiritual or tribal authority. For example, drums represent the ancestors of the Nzakara.

There are a number of generic intstruments used by many different tribes such as xylophones, harps, the mvet (harp-zither), the sanza, and many different kinds of drums used for rhythm.

There are also vernacular instruments that are exclusively used by a people. For example the Mbenzele and Aka pygmies are known for the end and side-blown Banda horns. The Ngarka are known for the ngombi, a ten-stringed arched harp.

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