African Musical Instruments

(●) Introduction: Theoretical Framework: (i) Idiophones – its definition, the characteristics of the four types of the rhythmic idiophones, and the two types of the melodic and tuned idiophones, (ii) Aerophones – its definition, and the three categories of this kind; (iii) Chordophones – its definition, and the six types of this instrument; and (iv) Membranophones – its definition, their difference in shapes and size, in the technique of playing, and in their functions in the societies. [Class Lecture Notes; Nketia, 1974:67-107]
(●) Wind and Air Instruments: (a) The Flutes and Trumpets: (i) General features of the African flute instruments; (ii) the three varieties of flute used in Africa; and (iii) the use of flute in instrumental ensembles, and how they distinguished from each other. (b) The Kakaki and Alghaita Instruments: (i) the characteristic features of the Kakaki and the Alghaita instruments, and (ii) what the kakaki instrument possesses, and how it is used more in ensemble than as a solo instrument; (iii) how the kakaki instrument is utilized exclusively in honor of dignitaries, and particularly high-ranking officials; and (iv) how musicians use the alghaita instruments, and sometimes combined the alghaita with the kakaki instruments to form an orchestra. (c) The Bobal and Papo Instruments: (i) The nature and characteristic features of these two clarinet instruments, (ii) The methods employed by musicians to produce the needed sound, and (iii) the materials used to modify the timbre and volume of the instruments. [Bebey, 1975:64-79]
(●) Mande Melodic Instruments: (a) The Instruments in Africa: (i) the geographical distribution of the instrument in West Africa, and their differences and similarities; and (ii) the three features that distinguish West Africa harps from other harps in the world. (b) The Mande Melodic Instruments: (i) the four major melodic instruments that the Mande professional musicians use, and how the Mande society categorize their instruments; (ii) why although the playing techniques of one instrument and other instrument are similar, among the Mande society the two instruments live in two different musical realm; and (iv) how the Mande musicians see their instruments as coming to them through divine intervention. (c) The Types of Maninka/Mandinka Harps: (i) the characteristic features of the Bolon instrument, its playing techniques, and its social function or usage; (iii) the characteristic features of the Simbi instrument, its playing techniques, and its social function or usage; and (iv) why these two Maninka harps (bolon and simbi) differ from other West African harps. (d) The Types of Jola Harps and Wasulu Donso Ngoni: (i) the material nature and characteristic features of Jula harp instrument, its playing techniques, and its social function, in terms of association and usage; (ii) the similarities Jola harp shares with Simbi harp instruments; and (iii) the material nature and characteristic features of Wasulu Donso Ngoni instrument, its playing techniques, and its social function, in terms of association and usage. [Charry, 1992:86-141]
(●) The Akan Traditional Drums: (a) Socio-Cultural Features of Akan Drums: (i) The distribution of the Akan drum among the community; (ii) what differentiate the drums from the other Akan instruments (harp, flute, etc.); and (iii) the function of the drum instrument in the society, and their use as a cooperate or collective ensemble than as individual instrument. (b) The Two Types of Akan Drums: (i) General characteristic features of Akan drum, (ii) The physical characteristics of the open drum, and its structure or forms; (iii) Examples of these open drums; (iv) The physical characteristics of the closed drum, and its structure or forms; and (v) Examples of these closed drums. (c) Modes of Drumming: (i) The three modes of drumming in Akan community – the Signal Drumming, the Speech Drumming, and the Dance Drumming – the characteristic features of each of them, and their social relevance; (ii) the four techniques or methods employed from these drums to create various sound; (iii) how rhythmic and tonal patterns are created in all these modes of drumming, and what each of them produce; and (iv) the differences between the unilineal rhythm and multi-lineal rhythm, and how these different rhythmic structures are employed in drumming. [Nketia, 1963:4-31]
(●) Summary and Conclusion: (a) Summary: Briefly summarize the three case studies – “Wind and Air Instruments;” “Mande Melodic Instruments;” and “Akan Traditional Drums” – that you discussed under the broad theme Musical Instruments; (b) Conclusion: Conclude briefly with what you have personally learned from this theme, and how that has contributed to your broad understanding of how African musical instrument form an integral part of the peoples’ life, and how they play a greater role in the social life of the community as a whole.

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