Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Musical Instrument Museum, Part 5

Leaving the special China Exhibit, I decided to see what is new and different in the main part of MIM since my last visit. Immediately, I noticed that the welcoming exhibit at the entrance of the museum appeared to differ from what I recalled. "Click" and I captured a "Special Thoroughbred banjo" from Philadelphia. Banjos such as this were often found in the parlors of fine American homes. I guess the decline in the number of homes with parlors reduced the demand for such banjos.

This interesting musical instrument is an axatse, a form of rattle from Ghana. The central portion is a hollowed out gourd surrounded by a net with seeds attached.

Here is a similar rattle from Brazil called an agbê, also constructed of a gourd with plastic "seeds". This is an example of instruments migrating along with people — in this case sadly since those original Africans were kidnapped and transported into slavery in the New World.

This fine instrument is a pipa, a form of plucked lute — this one from China (early 20th century). It was constructed of rosewood, paulownia wood, buffalo horn and silk strings.

This lute really caught my eye because of the elaborate sound hole and the number of strings. This instrument is from Paris, built in 1974 of wood, animal gut and nylon. Its ancestors are thought to have been derived from lutes brought to Spain by the Moors.

This plucked lute is called a Ūd and was built in Syria in 1970 of wood, plastic and nylon. The workmanship is outstanding. I wish I could have heard it played.

I was amused that this photo looks like I stepped outside for a demonstration of some historic dances but, in fact, is a photo of a photo. The figure is called a makishi who participates in the manhood ceremonies of the people of central Africa. He dances accompanied by drum ensembles plus an audience clapping, singing and dancing to honor the ancestor and the ceremony.

Next we see a full-figure "mask" called a Goboi mask, from Sierra Leone. The mask is constructed of raffia fibers, textiles, animal pelt, glass and wood. It is associated with the spirit world and supposed to originate in the forest and are brought into the human world after several days of struggle.

The next display features a side-blown trumpet made of ivory also from Sierra Leone, dated to the 19th or early 20th century.

This incredible carving is a Sowo mask from Sierra Leone. Carved out of wood, it is used by the Sande female association; the only ritual mask worn by women in Africa.

This instrument is called an Alghaita, a double-reed pipe from the Hausa people, who are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. The Hausa are a diverse but culturally homogeneous people based primarily in the Sahelian and Sudanian Daura area of northern Nigeria and southeastern Niger, with significant numbers also living in parts of Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Chad, Togo, Ghana, Sudan, Gabon and Senegal.

The instrument is constructed of wood, animal skins, metal and reeds.


I love these — a form of lamellaphone called a Akadongo, crafted by the Ganda people of wood and iron. They inhabit the area north and northwest of Lake Victoria in south-central Uganda.

If you would like to hear one playing (cultural mishmash) "Can't Help Falling in Love" go to https://youtu.be/kd7KC3PaEaA. Cute dog too.

Last for today is another favorite — a Kundu, a gourd-resonated xylophone from the Sara people of southern Chad. It is simply constructed of wood, gourds and rope. It is traditionally played on the eve of funerals and to accompany religious songs.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com