Folk & Traditional Music of the Western Continents

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the most widespread. Consisting of anywhere from seven to twenty-five slabs of wood, it varies greatly in size. The largest ones lie on the ground supported by small tree trunks; the smallest hang around the player's neck. Xylophones are frequently built (in Central Africa) with calabashes, gourds, or other hollow bodies attached to the slabs in order to add to the resonance. They are frequently played in groups; in parts of Central Africa, three players will enter­tain at a market together. In the Eastern part of Southern Africa, among the Chopi, orchestras of six and more xylophones of various sizes are used. This point is of great interest, since there is some evi­dence for the belief that xylophones were brought to Africa from Indonesia, perhaps a thousand years ago. The people of Madagascar speak Malayo-Polynesian languages which must have originated near Indonesia. And the Indonesians have for centuries had a very com­plex musical culture with instruments, made of metal, of the xylo­phone type. It seems possible that the xylophone was brought to Africa, or that the musical culture of Indonesia influenced the par­ticular direction in which xylophones and xylophone playing de­veloped in Africa. Xylophones of the simplest type—one or two slabs of wood which are struck—are found throughout the world, includ­ing indigenous Latin America; this has evidently given rise to an erroneous belief that the xylophone (or rather, its form with resona­tors, the marimba) came from Central America and was brought thence to Africa.
An instrument that apparently originated in Africa, and which is related to the xylophone, is the sansa or mbira, which is sometimes also called the "thumb piano" or "kafrir harp." Its provenience is largely East and Central Africa, and except for some Negro cultures in the Americas, it is not found outside Africa. It consists of a small board or wooden box on which is nailed a bridge. Tied to this bridge are a number of "keys," made usually of iron pieces pounded flat, but occasionally of reeds. These are gently plucked by the thumb or the fingers to produce a soft, tinkling sound. The number of kevs varies from eight to about thirty. Frequently a calabash resonator is attached to the instrument, and sometimes beads, which produce a rattling percussive accompaniment, are also attached. The sansa is played as a solo instrument, or in groups. It is frequently used to accompany singing, and in some African music of recent origin it is used to play an ostinato accompaniment not too different from the

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