African Percussion Instruments
Traditional Use And
The mysterious, rootsy sounds and looks of African percussion
instruments make curious to learn more
about where they come from. Below, we'll look at these ethnic
instruments in their cultural context.
Nowadays, many African drums, djembes or
percussion sets for sale in the West were not made in Africa, even
if the label says "African". When looking to purchase, it's hard to
tell the difference if you are inexperienced.
Here is where you'll find authentic
buy. I know
they are real, because I was watching the
artisans making them in Ghana for years.
Learn About The Different Types Of African Percussion
For a first quick impression of the vast variety that exists, check
this growing list with African names of
. But now, let's see some of
Shakers and rattles
Shakers and rattles play a big role in traditional African
religions. They may call spirits in sacred ceremonies or
the words and actions of important people.
In more modern societies though, kids use them as toys and musicians as
fun and rootsy percussion instruments.
Some examples of these instruments are djembe shakers, the kosikas, the
caxixi, juju shakers, ankle shakers etc.
Read about the use and purpose of the Ewe people's axatse
Just like the rattles, bells often have ritual or ceremonial
functions in traditional societies.
in neo-traditional music groups, bells are also the backbone of the
whole ensemble. Their rhythm often lets you immediately recognize the
music's ethnic origin.
Examples are the atoke babana bell, frikywa castenets, dunun bells etc.
Read about the use and purpose of the Ewe people's gankogui double bell
There's a surprising variety of African
as it is one of the continents most
Some ethnic groups use it as a means of communication.
An absolutely fascinating example of this is the balafon
recites the whole history of the Mande people.
Other examples of xylophnes are the gyil, timbila, palaku, shilimba,
mbaire or the aso-or-doso.
The African thumb piano
deeply rooted in African culture. It appears throughout the continent
with different features and names: Mbira, Karimba, Sanza,
Prempensua are just a few of them.
The thumb piano even successfully made it into Western
culture under the name "Kalimba".
Above instruments are idiophones. (Read this if you're not sure what an
The following type of instrument also
Hand and stick drums
Even in the West, we love these instruments so much that they deserve a
separate section on this website. Click here for more info on African drums
The same goes for the most popular of all African drums: the djembe.
You can read everything you want to know in my Djembe drum guide
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