9 Popular Local Musical Instruments In Africa

Indigenous musical instruments cannot be discarded from African ceremonies or religious activities.

In those days, musical instruments were used to communicate between man and spirits.

Other functions include translation, emission of daily experiences, social events, and many more. Now just some cultures are in such practice.

Many people think that local drums are the only musical instrument, thereby neglecting a wide variety of them.

However, in addition to the local drum, there are a variety of available musical instruments, including stringed ones. Some of these instruments are specific to particular regions and cultures.

For more information on local musical instruments, please stay on this page until the end.

We will highlight some local musical instruments to spice up cultural dances, music, communication, etc.

Indigenous Musical Instruments

For now, let’s introduce you to some prominent local instruments that are commonly used for entertainment and worship.

These local instruments go from ropes, wind, drums, percussion, etc.

  • Slit Drums 

A slot drum is a hollow percussion musical instrument built using wood or bamboo.

The wood is carved into an H-shaped box and attaches one or more slits to the top. For the drum to get different pitches, the resultant tongue has to vary with or thicknesses.

Split drums are used in the majority of Africa. The Zairean people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo call it “Alimba,” an Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea called it “Ekwe or Ikoro.”

The Yakas of the Congo call it “Makoku,” the Congolese of the Congo Basin call it “Lokole,” then the Africans of Guinea refer to their slit drums as “Krin or Kolokolos.”

  • Rattles and shakers

Rattle knew as “Shekere or Sekere,” is a shaken percussion instrument that is very popular among West African states such as Nigeria, Togo, Senegal, Togo, Benin, and so forth.

The musical instrument is a net of pearls or fairing mounted on a closed receptacle such as a well-prepared gourd plant or a sliding frame.

When the rattle is shaken, the pearls or cowries bump into each other and produce an excellent sound.

  • Djembe

It’s one of the popular musical instruments in West Africa that they say has been around for about 400 or 800 years. The djembe is a globe-shaped drum carved in hard African wood and surmounted with animal skin.

It is played with bare hands and produces a wide range of exciting sounds. Djembé means “everybody comes together in peace,” according to the Bambara of Mali.

Other countries that use this local musical instrument include Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, and Ivory Coast.

  • Udu

Udu is predominantly a musical instrument based in Nigeria molded in the shape of a water pot.

The Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria is the originator of this local musical object, and the name Udu means “Vassel.” It is made of wood or clay and of different sizes to distinguish the pitch of the sound.

They use their bare hands to play the instrument and produce a one-of-a-kind bass effect.

Notwithstanding, other pitches can be gotten from Udu, depending on how well the hand is placed in the small upper holes.

  • Gangan

It is a tiny percussion drum that originated in western Nigeria, especially in areas where Yoruba is spoken.

However, other West African states are known to use this local musical instrument.

Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, and the Republic of Benin. Different names know Gangan; some call it talking drum, while others Kalangu, Odondo, Karbi, etc.

It’s a wooden drum with an hourglass shape with strings flowing down close to each other. The drum is placed around the chest and played with two drum sticks, though people are playing with only one drum stick.

Gangan produces a mimetic tone that looks like the human’s; maybe that’s why it was named “talking drum.”

  • Mbira

Mbira is a local musical instrument that is uniquely Zimbabwean. The instrument is sometimes known as the “piano thumb” because it is played with the thumb and a finger.

It comprises a wooden or bamboo harmony table fixed by 22 to 28 metal touches. To amplify the sound, the wooden board is placed inside a giant gourd and then plucked with the thumbs and index finger.

Mbira is also known by other names such as mobile Sansa, climb, likembe, thumb piano, plumped idiophone, etc. It is also used in different regions of Africa, such as Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, and others.

  • Balafon 

Balafon is also a resonant gourd xylophone manufactured from hardwood, just like mbira. On this instrument, however, the wooden planks are closely connected.

Two strings are tied on each side and hung on a set of large gourds. To produce a melodic sound, you will need to use a small club to strike the wooden boards.

Balafon is from Mali, although other African states like Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire also use a musical instruments.

  • Agidigbo

It is a magnificent local musical instrument belonging to the Lamellophone family that is particular to the Yoruba people in Nigeria.

It is a wooden box with a hole, and metallic tabs like 4-5 bands fastened side by side. These metal tabs are designed for vibration and sound production.

Experts use their fingers to pluck metallic tongues and create a harmonious rhythm.

  • Kakaki

Kakaki is another musical instrument that originated with the Hausa people in Nigeria. It is a very long metallic trumpet, approximately 3-4 meters from the ground.

The instrument is only played by men in the king’s palace, as its sound is only for royalty, and it symbolizes power and authority.

Outside of Nigeria, Kakaki is also played in other areas of Africa such as Chad, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Niger, the Republic of Benin, and so on.

There are hundreds of local musical instruments on top of those we mentioned. If we are to discuss them all, we will spend ages.

The few instruments above are well-known local musical instruments in parts of Africa, particularly in the western region. To enjoy one of these musical articles, reach an occasion in these areas.


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