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Musical Instruments

Music is the framework of a complex concept which in Africa includes singing and dancing, playing instruments, masking and dramatization. It is not possible to speak of music without voices, or music without dramatization in the African context.

The Museum collection of African musical instruments is representative of West Africa and therefore consists of string instruments such as the kora, xylophones – also known as the balafon, different rattles and percussions – large drums and smaller ones such as the “talking drum”, as well as “sanzas”, whistles and horns. All traditional African musical instruments are made from the combination of materials found in nature and adequate to the respected climate and geography.

Particularly interesting is the balafon – an idiophone instrument made out of tuned, on a wooden frame placed keys. Gourds of different sizes are used as resonators and sound is created by striking the keys with sticks. Another recognizably West African instrument is the kora or “African harp”. These two instruments were predominantly played by griottes – a special caste of musicians, historians and storytellers who memorized and communicated to others the most important events from the history of West African peoples.