Monday, November 10, 2014

(Letter A) Videos of Traditional Music Instruments

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is the first of a series on seven posts on traditional music instruments throughout the world. This post features one or two videos of and information about various traditional instruments whose names begins with the letter "A".

In the context of this series, with a few exceptions such as pan ("steel drums"), and vuvuzelas, my definition of "traditional music instruments" are those instruments that were created prior to 20th century and which are largely unfamiliar to people in the general public (including me).

To access other posts in this series, click the "traditional music instruments" tag below.

My thanks to the musicians and vocalists featured on these videos and to all the publishers of these videos.

This series does not purport to include examples of all "traditional music instruments" worldwide.

Also, I'm not an expert on the subject of traditional music instruments.


Accordion [see the entries for "rubboard" and for "melodeon"]
African Harp

These featured instruments are presented in alphabetical order, with their geographical places of origin given in brackets.

Other featured traditional musical instruments may be shown in the video for the instrument that is showcased in this post. Some viewer comments may be included along with quoted information about the showcased instrument.

*shown & played only in the beginning of the video

Jamaican National Anthem 2009
fxwolf | January 09, 2010

Opening with a call from the Maroon "Abeng" horn, this contemporary version of the Jamaican National Anthem showcases the beauty, people, art, athletics and cultural diversity of our island home, Jamaica. ..

"'Abeng' is an African word meaning conch shell. The blowing of the conch called the slaves to the canefields in the West Indies. The abeng had another use: it was the instrument used by the Maroon armies to pass their messages and reach one another."

Here's a viewer comment from another video that briefly shows the abeng "The Jamaican Maroon Slave"
owusuwaa24- "Abeng is a Horn.. abeng is a twi word...Accompong maroons I have no doubt are directly linked to the Ashant tribe of Ghana west africa"

ACCORDIAN- See several videos in this series, including those posted in the "r" section for the musical instrumeny called a "rubboard" ("frottoir"). Also, see the entry for "melodeon".

"African harps, particularly arched or "bow" harps, are found in several Sub-Saharan African music traditions, particularly in the north-east. Used from early times in Africa, they resemble the form of harps in ancient Egypt with a vaulted body of wood, parchment faced, and a neck, perpendicular to the resonant face, on which the strings are wound.
See entries for "Enanga", "Kora", and "Kundi".

AGOGO [West Africa]

Fundamentals of Agogo - Campana (Bells) by Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu -The Vision Continues

Yagbe Onilu, Published on May 26, 2013

Chief YAGBE AWOLOWO ONILU Demonstrates the fundamentals of West African and AfroCuban rhythms.

Aula Mestre Tatá - Agogô

TataSanPercussao, Published on May 22, 2012

Mestre Tatá ensinando a tocar o Agogô de duas bocas.


Also, find an eample of the African agogo (often called a "cowbell") in the video "Ayan Bisi Adeleke - Master talking drummer - drum talks" that is posted under "D" for "dundun".


Akadinda and ndingidi (Uganda)

Wade Patterson, Uploaded on Aug 15, 2010

Akadinda (small xylophone) and ndingidi (tube fiddle) from Buganda, Uganda. Performed by members of the Tebifaanana Abifuna Cultural Group and recorded by Wade Patterson, Chris Zimmerman, Glendon Jones and Okello Kelo Sam outside of Kampala, Uganda in late 1994.
There are several comments in this video's viewer comment thread questioning & correcting the summary statement about the akadinda being the name of a small xylophone. Here are two of those comments:

Wade Patterson, 2011
"My understanding is that the aka- prefix denotes small objects. Some akadinda (like those played by Evalisto Muyinda and his crew) have up to 20 keys and are played by multiple players, but have small keys. In historical recordings of the Kabaka's court, the large, multi-player instruments are called amadinda and have larger keys. Both play the same repertoire, but the key size differs. These musicians called it akadinda. Not sure if they meant the keys or the instrument was "small" "

looksi, 2011
"i thought the small xylophone was called amadinda and the big one was called an akadinda..."

gregxxlive, 2011
"you're right - the bigger one is the akadinda! it is built for 6 musicians, the amadinda is played by 3"
"Akindinda: This is a percussion instrument that resembles a xylophone. 200 years ago the keys were tied in place with fiber threaded through holes in the wood. However the more “modern” akadinda has two braces with carving on the bottom so it doesn’t move when placed on a countertop.

The keys of this instrument are held together with the novel method of the musician’s toes or even a young child holding them in place. The Akadinda has 17 keys although older versions had 22 keys. It took five men to play the 17 keys.

The amadinda has 12 different keys which required three men to play a unique theme. In Ugandan culture, only the most important men in society maintained the amadinda."

AKAYAURE (metal anklets)
Niger - Etran Finatawa

idamawatu | November 21, 2008
This video also features an "Azakalabo" (a calabash floating on water).

Here's information about this video, song, and instruments from a YouTube commenter:

VraiDiouf -"The song is in a mixture of Fulani language (Fulfulde) and Tamasheq (Touareg language). Surbajo in Fulani language means "girlfriend" or "petite amie" if you speak French. The song is is talking about the virtues of a good woman, that even a man would do anything to impress or keep a good woman."
Via -“Etran Finatawa” is a group that is composed of musicians who are Tuareg and Wodaabe-Fulani from the West African nation of Niger Their group name means "‘the stars of tradition’.
Here's additional information about Fulani instruments from that same poster who is responding to questions I asked on the viewer discussion thread of the video "Mamou Sidibé - Foulbé - Music of Mali"

VraiDiouf -..."That is actually not a drum but a calabash which is common in Fulani music. There are two main types of Calabash used in Fula music. The Tumbuude (regular calabash) and then the Azakalabo (calabash floating on water). I am glad you like the music."

VraiDiouf- "@Azizip17 I also see a Djembe drum being used (we don't have a name for that in Fulani language since it is originally a Mandé instrument) and the Sekere I believe is originally a Yoruba instrument. Most Traditional Fulani music do not involve these instrument. Fulani music usually uses Fulani flute (Sembeendu or Odiirou), One string Violin (Nyanyeeru), Calabash (Tumbuude or Azakalabo), Hand Claps, and..."

VraiDiouf- "if you are Mbororo from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, etc. Akayaure a bell like thing worn on the feet/legs to produce a jingling sound. like you saw in that Etran Finatawa video"

Here's an excerpt from a review of one of Etran Finatawa's albums:
"Fascinating‚ unexpected‚ seductive‚ these are a few of the words fans use to describe the music of this unique ensemble from Niger. Etran Finatawa brings together musicians from Tuareg and Woodabe ethnic groups, integrating two cultural traditions through poetry, music and dance....

Producer Chris Birkett does an exceptional job at capturing the lush textures of the azakalabo (water-filled calabash), akayaure (metal rings on a metal plate, worn on legs) and the occasional lilt of the odiliri, a traditional flute."...

AKONTING [Senegal]

Akonting playing by Joe Diatta. Dakar. 07-2006

UlfJagfors | September 29, 2006

Joe Diatta (Jatta in english) plays an old Jola tune on the three string gourd lute Ekonting (Akonting). The name of the tune is Ampa Youtou, Child of Yuotou, a village in southern Senegal.The Akonting is one possible West African forerunner to the New World banjo.

Sana Ndiaye performs "Children" on the Akonting [Senegal]

billamuss, Uploaded on Aug 25, 2009

This original song by Sana is an excerpt from the video series "How to Play the Akonting with Sana Ndiaye" on the Ships of the Sea Museum website:
The akonting (or ekonting) is one of almost 60 documented plucked spike lutes found in West Africa, and is considered by some musicologists to be (at the least) one of the primary ancestors of the African/American instrument which became the gourd banjo. Despite its simple appearance, the akonking is capable of sophisticated and fascinating musical expression. It is now, however, only rarely played in the Senegambia -- the region of its origin.
Other plucked string African instruments such as the "donso", "ngoni", "kamale ngoni", "kora", and "xalam" are also featured in this series.

ANGKLUNG [Southeast Asia]

Bamboo Angklung concert  Beethoven symphony №5 by Indah Putri

assmjapan, Uploaded on Apr 10, 2011



Here's an excerpt from
"Angklung is a musical instrument made out of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved so that they have a resonant pitch when struck. The two tubes are tuned to octaves. The base of the frame is held with one hand while the other hand shakes the instrument rapidly from side to side. This causes a rapidly repeating note to sound. Thus each of three or more angklung performers in an ensemble will play just one note and together complete melodies are produced. Angklung is popular throughout Southeast Asia..."

See the entry for Bimli in the second post in this series: traditional musical instruments beginning with the letter "B".


Autoharp - Wayfaring Stranger

gfharper | April 11, 2007
Noodling around with my Ron Wall Mountain Harp

AZAKALABO (calabash instruments) (Niger)

Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba in Timbuktu- "Jonkoloni"

bbcafrica | January 21, 2010

Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba made one of the best received African albums of 2009. "I Speak Fula", released in September followed the hugely successful 2007 Segu Blue album.

From a posted comment from one of this YouTube video's viewers- TheKopEnd011-..." there singing juru nani which means play your four strings, the song is in praise of segu's most renowned warrior bakari jan kone."

Another video of clip of Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba is posted in this series under "ngoni".

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments and additionts to this list are welcome.

You may also be interested in my new blog:
Cocojams2 showcases examples of English language playground rhymes, cheers, and singing games, with special emphasis given to African American examples.

1 comment:

  1. Most of the information, comments, and videos in this series is part of a three part post entitled "Videos of Traditional Instruments" is posted on my jambalayah cultural website. My website that was hosted by the same internet company suddenly became inaccessible and I cannot reach that hosting company. Therefore I think it's likely that jambalayah may also be inaccessible in the near future. That's why I'm re-posting that series on multiple pancocojams posts.