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African Instruments with Strings

Includes the harp, Lyre, Lute, Zither & Bow. Most of the tracks were recorded within the Upper Nile basin, Northern Zaire, Ruanda, Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania, the majority being used as song accompaniment. Musical bows extend to Rhodesia, Mozambique and South Africa. This selection of extracts demonstrate the virtuosity of composers & players and the great variety of sounds that can be produced on these instruments.

Harps & Lyres

1. (Ganda) GANGA - Historical song with "Ennanga" 8-stringed bow-harp (pentatonic) played by Temusewa Mukasa, at Kasangati, Uganda, 1952 : TR-138 (B1). The song relates to the tragedy which befell one of the Kabaka's palace guards who stole some meat and had the first joints of his hands cut off with a knife of Kabaka's daughters - 1'30"

2. (Ganda) OKWAGALA OMULUNGI KWESENGEREZA - Historical song (as #1.) TR-138 (137). The song describes the danger of being too friendly with all-powerful men. Just before recording, Temusewa began to rehearse it by singing a series of syllables which he said "reminded his fingers of what to play", a device, he maintained, which was commonly used by harpists on learning a new tune. Syllables and words of the song have therefore been recorded as interesting evidence of harp-playing technique, although the parts played by each hand from either side of the string were not demonstrated separately - 3'17"

3. (Teso) ELOSI ABERU AKIPORE IMANITI ABIRO (However well a wife may cook, her husband is never satisfied) - Topical song with 5-stringed "Adedau" hoizontal bow-harp (pentatornc) played by lganitiyo Ekacholi with Teso men at Kwapa, Tororo, Uganda 1950. TR-130(134). The tuning of harp is: 284, 212, 190, 172, 142 vs. - 1'02"

4. (Nyoro) EKYOMA KYABORA (The Machine of Kyabora) - Topical song with "Ekidongo" 8-stringed bow-harp (pentatonic) played by Eriya Bakwasa at Hoima, Uganda, 1950 TR-132(A5). This harp is made of a simple oval-shaped wooden bowl with membranes of skin laced onto top and bottom. The arch of the harp is a stout curved stick in which eight pegs are inserted. The tuning: 322, 284, 240, 208, 180, 161, 142, 120 vs. - 1'43"

5. (Dhola) TICHI MABERE - Morality song with "Tongoli" 8-stringed bow-harp (pentatonic) played by Zedekia Ochwo at Tororo, Uganda 1950. TR-130 (A8). "There is nothing better than work, if you do not work you cannot live". Tuning: 420, 372, 328, 280, 244, 210, 186, 164 vs. - 1'34"

6. (Zande) GITARI NA CONGO - Topical song with "Kundi" 5-stringed vertical bow-harp (pentatoilic) played by Bakia Pierre at Buta, N. Zaire, 1952, The Zande are famous blacksmiths, and this song is about one of them who sang as he beat on his anvil: "My anvil is the true guitar of the Congo, and I play on it to show how I love my work" - 1'39"

7. (Ganda) MUNYA GWERIRA MUNYALE - Topical song with 2 "Endongo" 8-stringed lyres (pentatonic) played by Evaristo Muyinda and Yakobo Ssewakirya at Masaka, Uganda, 1952. TR-139 (132). "The gekko lizard, which lives in our houses, is a friend of man and should not be harmed. If a single gekko was killed, seven other gekkos would take the case to the chief and they would win". The two lyres were tuned an octave apart: 288, 336, 194, 168, 144, 440, 194, 248 vs. - 1'45"

8. (Kipsigis) BENGERIA - Love song with "Kibugandet" 5-stringed wishbone lyre (pentatonic) played by Teituk Arap Sumeiyet at Kapkatet, Kenya, 1950. Teituk makes the customary hissing sound between the verses of this song about the girl, Bengeria. TR-165 (A2) - 1'26"

9. (Kipsigis) "CHEMIROCHA" - Humorous song with "Chepkong" 6-stringed wishbone lyre (pentatonic) played by Chemutoi Ketienya and Kipsigis girls at Kapkatet, Kenya, 1950. TR-164 (B7). The mysterious singer and dancer, Chemirocha (Jimmy Rogers), has been turned into a local god, Pan, with the feet of an antelope, half beast, half man and he is urged by the girls to come and do the leaping dance with them and to do it so energetically that he wll jump clear out of his clothes - 1'30"

10. (Nandi) CHEPCHONI MARINDA - Praise song with "Kipukandet" 6-stringed wishbone lyre (pentatonic) played and sung by Akito Arap Yeko at Kapsabet, Kenya, 1950.TR-164 (A7). The singer shows his appreciation for his people, his chief and his country around Kapsabet - 1'05"

11. (Luo) GIDEON MAGAK - with "Thum" 8-stringed bowl lyre and "gara" leg bells played and sung by Daudi Atuoma at Kisapul, Kenya, 1950. TR 168 (A6). The singer praises his chief, Gideon Magak, for his public works in the district under his charge - 1'21"

12. (Ganda) ABA SEVENI ABADA - Topical song with "Endongo" 8-stringed bowl lyre, an "Endingidi" one-stringed lute and an"Entenga" laced drum performed by Zakaria Kasasa and Ganda men at Kampala, Uganda, 1950. TR-136 (B2). "The soldiers of the Abaseveni, the 7th King's African Rifles, are back from war and they have no money left. The ones who stayed behind are better off than they" - 1'25"

Lutes, Zithers & Bows

13. (Luo) ODHIAMBO ODET - Praise song with "Oratu" one-string lute with bow by Ogalo Mirasi at Bondo, Kenya 1950. TR-168 (A1). "Odhiambo is a wonderful person with eyes so bright he could even see to read in the dark" - 1'29"

14. (Cewa) DZOMBE RIJA - Humorous song with "Kark~o" 1-string lute with bow by Musizi Mware at Vi sanzi, Malawi, 1958. TR-78 (A8). "Where does that grasshopper of mine sleep? I will not eat until everyone helps me to catch it" - 1'18"

15. (Medje) NENEMEGYET - Topical song with "Nenjenje" 2~stringed stopped lute by Obato Sukuma at Medje, N. Zaire 1952. TR-121 (A2). This lute which has three raised stops is found throughout central Africa from N. Zaire to the Zambesi River. One string only is fingered, the other is used as a drone - 1'42"

16. (Hehe) NGWIDJKA SADANGA WAPAMAGULU - Humorous song with "Ligombo" 6-stringed trough-zither by Pancras Makwawa and his son at Iringa, Tanzania, 1950. TR-l57 (A2). The player who is both the maker and player of this gourd-resonated zither, is assisted by his son who sits beside him and raps out a rhythm on the gourd with the backs of his fingers while his father is playing. Makwawa also on occasion flips the gourd to give emphasis - 3'19"

17. (Haya) LUKIZA - Legend with 7-stringed trough zither by Habib bin Seliman at Kabale, Bukoba, Tanzania 1950. TR-146 (Al). The player (who gave only his Mohammedan and not his African name) is a famous singer of local legends. In this he tells the story of an angry man who was enraged by the misrule of a certain chief in ancient times and threatened to attack him. Tuning of the "Nanga": 256, 232, 210, 192, 176, 152, 140 vs. - 2'50"

18. (Tonga) NDALAMA - Topical song with "Bangwe "7-stringed raft-zither by Beti Kamanga at Nkata Bay, Malawi, 1950. TR-186 (A6). "Chuma chatimala. Money spoils us. Even Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver" - 2'05"

19. (Yao) KAZELA KAMBE LEMBA - Topical song with "Bangwe" 7-stringed board-zither by Chimwala Ganiziechi and Mwamadi Lakote from Fort Johnson, Malawi rec. Kariba 1957. TR-66 (B1). "Set the stone trap so that we may catch fish and two mice" - 1'33"

20. (Cewa) TISIMBI WASAUKA - Topical song with "Bangwe" 7-stringed board-zither by Alfredi Phiri at Furancungo, Mozambique, 1958. TR-94 (A2). This zither had wire strings and was resonated by fixing it into a rectangular hole cut into the side of a large gourd - 1'17"

21. (Hlengwe) IHLOMULO WALEKAYA MANGAWA YAUIMA - Topical song with "chitende" 1-string gourd-resonated musical bow by Saisi Shishonke from Mabote, Mozambique, 1957. TR-29 (A4)."The pleasure of the people is my distress". The string of the bow is stressed thus giving two fundamental notes. It is struck with a light stick or stiff straw and is also stopped with the backs of both the first and second fingers near the point of stressing - 0'59"

22. (Swazi) NGONENI NGONENI BAKITI? - Topical song with "Umakhweyana" one-string stressed bow, gourd-resonated by Rosalina Ndhlole and Juana Nkosi at Mataffin, S. A., 1958. TR-72 (B7). Sung by two elderly Swazi women, one of whom played the bow. Among the Swazi and Zulu the Umakhweyana bow is a woman's instrument while across the Limpopo River to the north it is almost exclusively a man's preserve - 1'22"

These recordings were made by Dr.Hugh Tracey in the early fifties for The International Library of African Music and are reproduced here with his permission and that of the Library. First published on Folktrax Cassettes 1976.

COLLECTOR'S NOTE; The majority of stringed instruments found within Central and Southern Africa are located within the upper Nile basin or its immediate environments in Northern Zaire, Ruanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Harps, lutes, lyres and zithers are used extensively within this region for the accompaniment of songs but rarely as solo instruments. The simpler stringed instruments, such as the musical bows, are more widely distributed and extend far down into the south to Rhodesia, Mozambique and South Africa. It is said that many of the upper Nile instruments were found within Egypt in ancient times and may well have been taken north by the labourers and slaves who were recruited by the Egyptians for work on their great temples.

This selection of extracts gives a brief indication of the virtuosity of the composers and players of African stringed instruments and the variety of sounds which can be produced with the simplest of musical equipment. Hugh Tracey D. Mus. (Hon.)

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