presented by World Music Productions

           The Origins of African Musical Instruments

The Doundoun
Origin: Kankan,  Kouroussa, Siguiri (Upper Guinea)
A cylinder shaped
drum, about 23 inches
in diameter, made out
of wood or a steel
barrel, produces the
bass sound.

The Krin
Origin: Lower Guinea,
Korokoto (in Upper
Guinea), also called
Kingyi (in Forest Guinea)
The krin, a cylinder
shaped melodic drum
made of hollow wood,
is about 12 inches long
and 7 to 15 inches in
diameter. Heads are not
placed on the ends.
 Holes are made
along the cylinder
to vary pitch.

The Sanghan
Origin: Kouroussa, Siguiri,
Kankan (Upper Guinea)
A wood drum, about 10 inches in
diameter, produces mid-bass tone.

The Kesekese
Origin: Faranah  (Upper Guinea)
The kesekese is a cone shaped rattle made of woven vegetable fibers filled with stones or dried grains.

The Kenkeni
Origin: Kankan, Kouroussa, Siguiri
(Upper Guinea)
The smallest among the three cylinder drums, it has a higher pitch; these drums are covered on both heads with cow or ox skin.

The Koron
Origin: Faranah
(Upper Guinea)
The koron, made of hollowed oblong shaped wood, is about 9 inches long,and is played with a small stick. It is an
accompaniment
rhythm instrument.

The Bolon
Origin: Manding - Used in Wassoulou, Upper Guinea and Mid-Guinea
The bolon is a kind of bended harp,
made of gourd (or calabash) with a neck made of a bent wooden stick and three strings. It is often played at hunters ceremonies.

The Djembe -
Origin: Manding
The djembe is found
in many parts of West
Africa; it is called
djembe in upper
Guinea, or
sambanyi in lower
Guinea. The
djembe is the main
instrument used
in Guinean music.
Its height varies
between 16 and 24
inches, with a diameter
from 11 inches to 14 inches.

The Flute
Origin: Foutah Djallon (Mid-Guinea) and  Upper Guinea
An instrument made of wood or
bamboo, with three or more holes. It is played in traditional
music ensembles during festivities.

The Kora
Origin: Gambia, Senegal, Mali,
Guinea, and Guinea - Bissau
The kora, invented in the
13th century, was played
in the royal court of the
Manding civilization. The
kora is the reliable messenger
of both ancient and contemporary
civilization. There
is a rich library of traditional
songs and melodies for this
instrument. The kora is made of
a long wooden stick which crosses
half a spherical resonating calabash
(gourd) approximately 20
inches in diameter. It is covered
with cow or sheep skin and has 21
strings (11 for the left hand and
10 for the right hand).


The Balafon (also called Bala)
Origin: Manding
The balafon is common in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is similar to the traditional Guatemalan marimba or wooden xylophone. Thirteen to 21 wood keys of different lengths sit on a wooden rectangular frame, usually three to four feet in length. Each key has its own resonator, made of a spherical calabash. The keys are struck with mallets. The balafon is important to Mandinka griots who play them while reciting praise songs. The instrument was named after a famous griot, Balafasiki Kuyate, who lived in the Mali empire during the 13th century.

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