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Stick Zither (Lokángo Voatávo), Madagascar, April 25, 1905

Stick zither, Madagascar, 1905

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Looking down upon stick zither, Madagascar, 1905

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NMM 2429.  Stick zither (lokángo voatávo), Madagascar, signed FAHATSIAROVANA TAMIN'NY DRISTIANA Fort Dauphin, 25 Avril 1905. Wood, two strings, played with a gourd resonator pressed against the player's chest. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

This type of gourd- or oil can-resonated, stick zither is also known in Swahili as the dzedzy or jejy. In western Madagascar, the alternate name, dzédzivoatavo, is also found. Traditionally, its one or two strings were made from several twisted raffia fibers, although more recently, steel strings are also used. Players, called mpilalao, depress the strings against three projecting fret rods, while plucking them with the middle finger of the opposite hand. Traditionally, this form of zither is used primarily to accompany epic story telling.

According to the Museum of Art and Archeology of the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, these zithers "are played only by men and not everyone are [sic] allowed to play them. Knowledge is passed down from father to son. The men who play them must have received their father's blessing. Moreover, players must show signs of maturity, like white hair, because the jejy voatavo are considered to be difficult instruments and players must have a great deal of experience to play them. Click here to see an example of this type of zither, from the collections of the Antananarivo museum, played by a mpilalao.

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Lower end of zither Signature on stick Signature on stick Bridge end Signature on stick