Posts Tagged ‘slit drums’

Idiophones

November 14, 2009

 

The Central African Republic has many types of idiophones. These are instruments that vibrate without strings or a membrane. In Western music some types of idiophones may be a triangle, cymbal, or marimba. Many of the instruments mentioned by Simha Arom below have become an essential part of Afro-Cuban and Latin percussion. I heard all of these instruments performed by various ensembles while in Burkina Faso this past summer. Actually the clappers made out of metal blades were somewhat challenging to play and they had a powerful sound quality.

  • Metal blades used by the Pygmies as clappers
  • Single or double bells, with internal or external clappers.
  • Wooden slit drums used by the Banda and Manja in families of two to four at a time.
  • Gourd aka water drums found in Islamic groups
  • Xylophones with five to ten keys, some with gourd resonators and others with mobile keys that may be placed on the knees or in a hole in the ground.
  • Log drums (Mpyemo and Kaka)
  • Rattles, pellet bells, ankle and knee-jingles.

In Burkina Faso, (West Africa)  I saw dance troops, sometimes 10 Р20 dancers, moving in unison with knee-jingles to great dramatic effect.

  • Scrappers (Ubangi river-dwellers)
  • Sanza aka Mbira, Kalimba or thumb piano: metal or bamboo tongues attached to a resonator. Also very popular in Zimbabwe. Often tuned to a pentatonic scale and/or various micro-tuned subsets.

 

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Organological Classification

November 13, 2009

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.