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Annotated Checklist of Musical Instruments From
Sub-Saharan Africa
On Display in the NMM's Beede Gallery

Note:  This checklist represents only a portion of the NMM's instruments from this area of the world.


Instrument Types Represented in this Display

Bell
Drums
Guitar
Harps
Horns
Lyre
Plucked Lamellaphones
Rattles
Woodwind, Double-Reed
Xylophones
Zithers


Countries/Regions/Areas Represented in this Display

Angola NMM 1243
Bechuanaland Protectorate NMM 2606
Belgian Congo NMM 1503, 2441, 5893, 7037, 7176
Benin NMM 10989
Botswana NMM 10074
Cameroon NMM 1247, 4173, 4175, 4176
Central Africa NMM 1247, 2388
East Africa NMM 1241, 1434, 7270
Ethiopia NMM 7269
Guinea Forest NMM 1251
Italian East Africa NMM 7269
Kenya NMM 4994
Madagascar NMM 1253, 2429
Mozambique NMM 2425
Nigeria NMM 1247, 1251, 1293, 10971, 10989
Portuguese East Africa NMM 2425
Sierra Leone NMM 2440
Tanganyika NMM 4994
Tanzania NMM 4994
Uganda NMM 1434, 3179-3180
West Africa NMM 1243, 1245, 1293, 2440
Zaire NMM 1242, 1247, 2441, 5893, 7037, 7176

Maps

Looking for a map? Link to the Perry-Castaņeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin for an excellent collection of historic and current worldwide maps. Click here for their selection of maps of Africa.


Checklist

Bell

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NMM 4175.  Double clapperless bell (kuge), Cameroon, mid-20th century. Iron, struck with attached wood beater, regularly used in the area of Cameroon where the donor worked and collected this and other instruments. Gift of Verna Syverson, a missionary in Meiganga, Cameroon, 1987.


Drums

NMM 1251.  Talking drum (kalengo), Nigeria or the Guinea forest, early 20th century.

NMM 1251.  Talking drum (kalengo), Nigeria or the Guinea forest, early 20th century. Pitch is changed by squeezing the cords under one's arm, thus altering the tension of the heads. Wood body, two skin heads, rawhide tension. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

Lit.:  André P. Larson, The National Music Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), p. 31.


NMM 3179 and 3180.  Two drums from a set of tuned drums (entenga), Uganda, ca. 1910.

NMM 3179 and 3180.  Two drums from a set of tuned drums or drum chime (entenga), Uganda, ca. 1910. Played at the royal court of the Kabaka, the traditional ruler of Buganda, a region of Uganda. As many as 15 such drums are played together, tuned so that one can hear a melody. Inside of each, an unidentified fetish rattles around. Collected by Carl E. Akeley (1864-1926), who led five expeditions to Africa. His older brother, Lewis E. Akeley (1861-1961), was Dean of the USD College of Engineering and died in Vermillion at the age of 100. Gift of Melville H. Miller, DeLand, Florida, 1983.

Lit.:  "Collected by Carl Akeley . . .  Rare African Drums Acquired," Shrine to Music Museum, Inc. Newsletter 10, No. 4 (July 1983), pp. 1 and 3.

André P. Larson, The National Music Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), p. 31.


NMM 10971.  Frame drum, Nigeria, ca. 1980

NMM 10971.  Frame drum (sakara), Nigeria, ca. 1980. Earthenware frame with incurved sides. Goatskin head secured with fifty bamboo sticks that pierce the skin. Wood beater. Paul and Jean Christian Collection, 2006.


Guitar

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NMM 10074.  Guitar, Sebele (outskirts of Gaborone), Botswana, ca. 1978. Hand-made from a can used to ship USAID foodstuffs. Three strings. Acquired from two 12-year-old boys walking down a dirt road in front of the donors' house. Gift of Dale and JoAnne Reeves, Brookings, South Dakota, 2001.


Harps

NMM 10989.  Pluriarc, Benin, early 20th century

NMM 10989.  Pluriarc (multi-neck harp), Benin (southwestern Nigeria), early 20th century. Probably played by the Edo speaking people of the area, where the tradition dates back to the days of ancient Benin. Eight strings. Paul and Jean Christian Collection, 2006.

Lit.:  "Recent Acquisitions," National Music Museum Newsletter 35, No. 2 (May 2008), p. 6.


NMM 1503.  Arched harp, Belgian Congo, ca. 1900.

NMM 1503.  Arched harp, Belgian Congo, ca. 1900. Waisted, boat-shaped wood body tightly covered with hide. Two sound holes. Carved effigy head at the top of the curved, wood neck. Five pegs. Ex coll.: William E. Gribbon, Greenfield, Massachusetts. Purchase funds gift of Grace L. Beede, 1977.


NMM 1243.  Tyitanzi, Angola, early 20th century.

NMM 5893.  Arched harp (donnu) by Mangbetu people, Uele river region, Belgian Congo (now northeastern Zaire), ca. 1910-1920. The twisted copper wire depicts the geometric, dotted, linear body painting favored by Mangbetu women. The elongated heads represent the Mangbetu's Queen Nenzima and King Yangala. Board of Trustees, 1995.

Lit.:  Margaret Downie Banks, "Anthropomorphic Harp a Link to Zaire's Colonial Past," The Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter, 23, No. 3 (January 1996), p. 5.


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NMM 2388.  Arched harp, Central Africa, ca. 1920. Ivory neck and pegs and an effigy head carved at the top with elaborate hair or a headdress. Wood body covered with tightly sewn reptile skin. Five strings. Ex coll.: Fred Benkovic, Milwaukee. Board of Trustees, 1978.


Horns

NMM 2441.  Horn, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), ca. 1850-1900.

NMM 2441.  Horn, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), ca. 1850-1900. Ivory. An effigy head inlaid with rings of black resin to form the eyes. Lozenge-shaped embouchure with two carved ivory extensions. Ex coll.: Harry Oster, Iowa City. Board of Trustees, 1978.


NMM 4994.  Hunting horn (baragumu), Kenya or Tanganyika, ca. 1925.

NMM 4994.  Hunting horn (baragumu), Kenya or Tanganyika (now Tanzania), ca. 1925. Side-blown horn made from the twisted horn of the kudu antelope, with a carved, integral embouchure at the narrow end. Played by antelope hunters during the ritual held before their departure on the next hunt. Owned by an English collector before World War II. His initials, WMS, are painted in black on the bell. Arne B. Larson Estate, 1988.


NMM 7037.  Hunting horn, Belgian Congo, ca. 1925.

NMM 7037.  Hunting horn, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), ca. 1925. Stained ivory. Lozenge-shaped embouchure with a man's head carved on the backside. Dot patterns burned into the body. Joe R. & Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.


NMM 7176.  Hunting horn, Belgian Congo, ca. 1925.

NMM 7176.  Hunting horn, Belgian Congo (now Zaire), ca. 1925. Sable antelope horn covered with hide sewn along the inner curve. Horns made from antelope horns are common in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Joe R. & Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.


NMM 7269.  Hunting horn, Italian East Africa, ca. 1925.

NMM 7269.  Hunting horn, Italian East Africa (now Ethiopia), ca. 1925. Wood, ornamented with three pieces of skin from goat legs, including hooves. Interesting embouchure with a second small hole at the narrow end that can be stopped with one's thumb. Joe R. & Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.


NMM 7279.  Hunting horn, eastern Africa, ca. 1925.

NMM 7270.  Hunting horn, eastern Africa, ca. 1925. Two pieces of wood, hollowed out and held together with cloth and covered with goat skin, neatly sewn on. Interesting embouchure hole with the air going out the side. Joe R. & Joella F. Utley Collection, 1999.


Lyre

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NMM 1434.  Lyre (ndongo), Uganda (east Africa), ca. 1935. Bowl-shaped wood resonator covered with snakeskin, with a single sound hole. Eight strings of twisted leather bound by strips of cloth at the crossbar. Quasi-triangular yoke. Used both as a solo instrument and in ensembles. Plucked with the fingers of both hands. Ex coll.: James Francis, Toledo, Ohio. Board of Trustees, 1976.


Plucked Lamellaphones

NMM 1242.  Sansa, Loango people, Zaire, ca. 1900.

NMM 1242.  Plucked lamellaphone (sansa), Loango people, Zaire, ca. 1900. Homoxylic wood resonator, hollowed out from the bottom, top end resembling the prow of a boat. Decorated with small, blue glass beads in a pattern of lozenges. Six (originally seven) iron tongues. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 1241.  Sansa, probably East Africa, early 20th century.

NMM 1241.  Plucked lamellaphone (sansa), probably East Africa, early 20th century. Metal lamellae forged from umbrella ribs or bicycle-wheel spokes. Six wood panels nailed together to form trapezoidal resonator. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 1243.  Tyitanzi, Angola, early 20th century.

NMM 1243.  Plucked lamellaphone (tyitanzi), Angola (West Africa), early 20th century. Played by depressing and releasing the nine (originally ten) tongues, five of brass and four of forged iron, with the thumbs. Flat soundtable incised with a pattern of lozenges flanked by triangles. Small convex discs of brass at the ends, and five jingling metal rings strung on a loop of twisted iron. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 4173.  Plucked lamellaphone (sansa), Gbaya tribe, western grasslands region of Cameroon, ca. 1950.

NMM 4173.  Plucked lamellaphone (sansa), Gbaya tribe, western grasslands region of Cameroon, ca. 1950. A female figure, once used and kept in a hut where it was exposed to in-house cooking fires. Hair is carved to look like it is pulled back, almost to a point, typical of the Gbaya people. The nine wood tongues are depressed and released to make music. Gift of Verna Syverson, Cameroon, 1987.


Rattles

NMM 2606.  Dance rattle, Mhasha villager or tribesman, Bechuanaland Protectorate, ca. 1897.

NMM 2606.  Dance rattle (osó or makalaka), Mhasha villager or tribesman, Bechuanaland Protectorate, ca. 1897. Gourd body, wood handle. Filled with some 30 small, but hard seeds. A free design scratched on surface of the gourd. Ex coll.: Silvia Davison Paton, Hartford Seminary, Connecticut, 1904. Board of Trustees, 1979.


NMM 4176.  Beaded gourd rattle (cabaca), Cameroon, mid-20th century.

NMM 4176.  Beaded gourd rattle (cabaca), Cameroon, mid-20th century. Used by men in the grasslands region of Cameroon. Gift of Verna Syverson, Cameroon, 1987.


Woodwind, Double-Reed

NMM 1293.  Double-reed woodwind (algaita), Nigeria, ca. 1925

NMM 1293.  Double-reed woodwind (algaita), Nigeria or savannah area of western Africa, ca. 1925. Three-part (cylindrical/conical) wood body covered with leather. Four finger holes, typical of the instrument in Nigeria, where the player presses his lips against the disc and uses his cheeks as an air reservoir, so that the instrument can be blown continuously. Ex coll.: Phillip Bate, London. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


Xylophones

NMM 2440.  Xylophone (balo), Sierra Leone, ca. 1900.

NMM 2440.  Xylophone (balo), Sierra Leone (West Africa), ca. 1900. Wood frame with nineteen bars (keys) and gourd resonators hanging below. Played by male professional musicians to accompany praise songs. Board of Trustees, 1978.


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NMM 2425.  Portable xylophone (mbila), Portuguese East Africa or southern Mozambique, ca. 1900. Ten bars and gourd resonators (one missing). Two mallets with resin heads. Built to be played while walking. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 1247.  Portable Ring Xylophone (kundung), Nigeria, Cameroon, or Zaire (Central Africa), ca. 1935.

NMM 1247.  Portable ring xylophone (kundung), Nigeria, Cameroon, or Zaire (central Africa), ca. 1935. Seven bars (keys) with animal horn resonators. Two y-shaped wood beaters make it possible to play up to four bars at once. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


Zithers

NMM 2429.  Stick zither, Madagascar, 25 April 1905.

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. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


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NMM 1253.  Tube zither (valiha), Madagascar, ca. 1925. Cane, with the strings raised from the outer layer of the cane. One of the most important Madagascan instruments, played by plucking the strings with one's fingers, the concept came originally from southeast Asia. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 1245.  Raft zither, west Africa, ca. 1935.

NMM 1245.  Raft zither, west Africa, ca. 1935. Cane. Ten strings. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

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Most recent update: December 28, 2016

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