African wind instruments

Written by kent page mcgroarty | 13/05/2017
African wind instruments
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While African instruments made with fine materials have gained popularity around the world, instruments were traditionally handmade out of items found around the home, according to African Music Blog. These instruments include the balafon or marimba, a type of xylophone made from dead Shea Butter tree bark, and African bells, which originated out of Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, and were often used as a method of communication among villages. African wind instruments include flutes, trumpets and other types of horns, many of which were made from animal horns and used to signify a formal occasion.


With the exception of the recorder, flutes of all types are played in Africa. Groups of musicians use vertical pipes, a kind of flute, to play single-note sets throughout the eastern, central and southern regions of Africa. Each musician plays one note, and when all musicians perform at the same time, a "complex polyphonic texture" is created. Nyanga pan pipes are a specific type of flute, named after the Nyungwe people from the Tete district of Mozambique. Such pipes are actually a set of four instruments that act as a base for what can evolve into an ensemble of at least 30 instruments. Playing nyanga pipes is an involved process as it requires performing difficult dance steps while simultaneously blowing and singing interlocking rhythmic patterns.


The kaki is a 10- to 13-foot metal trumpet utilised in traditional African music. It is referred to as a "kakaki" in Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, but called a "waza" in parts of Chad and Sudan, and a "malakat" in Ethiopia. The kaki is played by only by men in Hausa societies, and it is generally reserved for specific occasions, such as a ceremony at the king's palace. While Kakaki trumpets are made of metal, most other African trumpets are made from animal horns, such as ivory, or from hollowed wood.

Animal Horn Instruments

Animal horn trumpets are played throughout Africa. The kudu horn is a six-horn instrument played similarly to the trumpet in that you blow through a transverse hole near instrument's tip. Numerous African musical traditions revolve around horn ensembles, including Central Africa's Makondere horn bands and the Central African Republic's horn ensembles of the Banda-Linda. Animal horns blend well with other African Instruments, such as the harp and pentatonic xylophone, and horns are also used as herald calls for formal events.

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