Musical instruments of Africa

Music is an important part of life for African people. Generally, people think that europeans and American people enjoy music more. But , certainly it is a misconception. In the other continents of the world, there are a few communities who participate directly in playing the Musical instruments .Rest of the people are the audience and spectators. But, in Africamusic is an Intangible part of life of the African people. Read here about musical instruments from Africa.

African music seems to be more natural and real. Most of the Musical instruments are biodegradable. As they are made by natural elements. They made from wood and skins of animals. However, turtle shells etc are also useful to make these instruments .They also decorate their musical instruments using various colours and natural occurring elements. They ensure that they play music. but also ensure that everyone enjoys this music including them.

Africans make music at home, social gatherings, functions or to welcome any of the special guests and royal families. Music is also an important part in funerals and community gatherings.

Classification of Musical Instruments of Africa

A wide range the Musical instruments are a part of African culture.It includes a wide range of drums, wind instruments, double bells etc.


As is wide array of the Musical instruments used in Africa. So it includes a wide range of drums, wind instruments, double bells etc. Various types of harps, types of xylophone, such as Mbira are famous musical instruments in Africa. Different types of flutes are also some of the most famous musical instruments from Africa. There are five subgroups of sub- Saharan African Musical instruments. These five types are Membranophones , Chordophones, Aerophones, Idiophones and Percussion.

Tubular Drums

it includes a wide range of drums which are waisted , long , footed , conical and barrel.

So, we can categorise Tubular drums into following categories.

Cylinderical Drums

it is a two side usable drum and percussive string works as to play it. Its examples are bass drum and Iranian Dohol.

Conical Drums

Their one side contains slope and so they have generally one head. Examples are Indian Tabla and Venezuela Him Angeles.

Barrel Drums

These normally contains single head and open at the bottom. Ex. Mossi of Burkina Faso.

Long Drums

This is a diverse category of Drums. These are drums containing extreme length. Its examples are – single head long tree drums of Africa and carve Gufalo of the Nuna of Burkina Faso.

Footed Drums

These are also single head drums.As These are held one feet above from the ground. distance between the ground and the drum provides extra resonance. Examples include a wide range of Drums of Eastern Africa.


The word Chordophones originated from the Greek  word ‘chord’ which means ‘Strings’.

So is a class of musical instruments (such as a guitar or piano) which generates sound by plucking, bowing, or striking stretched strings. In this class there are musical instruments, in which a string produces the initial sound.

Chordophones are categorised into five basic types which are zithers, harps, lutes, musical bows and lyres.


Zithers have strings that are stretched over inside a resonator. They Stretched between two resonators. Examples include dulcimers and pianos.



In harps , the strings are stretched at an angle to the resonator . Iris harps are its common examples. 


Lutes have strings that stretch across a resonator and up a neck. Some common Examples of Lutes are violins, cellos, banjos, veena and guitars.

The Musical Bow

The musical bow is a simple string instrument used by a number of South African people. The musical -bow  is a single-string bow-shaped folk musical instrument, classified as a chordophone.


lyre almost seems similar to that of Harp but it is different from harp in its construction. Though it was discovered in Greece in 1400 BC but is popular in Africa.


An aerophone  is a musical instrument that produces sound primarily by vibration. But it takes place without the use of strings or membranes ,which are there in chordophones and membranophones and without the vibration of the instrument itself adding considerably to the sound.

A few examples of the most famous aerophone instruments include the trumpets, flute, accordion, tuba, harmonica, horn, accordion and whistle. Piccolo and clarinet are some more examples of aerophones.


It is the  musical instrument that creates sound  by the vibration of the instrument itself. It produces sound without the use of air flow, strings, membranes or electricity.

Classification of Idiophones

Concussion Idiophones

These are the instruments that produce sound by striking one another.

Rattle Idiophones

These Idiophones produce sound by shaking.

Scraper Idiophones

Scraper Idiophones are instruments that scraps with a stick. There can also be any  other foreign objects to give off a sound.

Plucked Idiophones

These Idiophones  produce sound by plucking a flexible tongue from in the instrument itself.

Friction Idiophones

These Idiophones rubbed together to produce sound. It  increases vibration and sound intensity.

Percussion Instrument

The word percussion derives from the Latin verb percussio which means to strike in the musical sense. Where the noun percussus denotes , a beating.

percussion instrument is the instrument that makes sound by strucking and scraping. 

The most common percussion instruments in the orchestra are  xylophone, triangle, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, maracas, gongs, chimes, celesta, and piano.

Some Most Famous Musical Instruments of Africa 


The Algita is a proper wind instrument popular in west Africa. Also it is a wider opening at the base as well as open finger holes. Further, it is generally made from reeds.


The Mbira is a thumb piano that comprises of two rows of metal strips which come in staggered dimensions.They are placed on a wooden resonator. Often they are most commonly found in East & Southern Africa.

The Marimba

The marimba is a type of African xylophone.It is made by placing some planks of wooden planks on a wooden box. The Marimba is found in East and Central Africa.

The Talking Drum

The talking drum is the most famous drum from is most famous in West Africa. Currently, it is popular in countries such as Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

The Kora

 It stands out as one of the most famous stringed instruments. In fact, Kora may also come in terms such as ‘Jali ‘. Also the design of the instrument is almost similar to that of the guitar. This features 21 strings placed on a gourd covered with the skin / hide of an animal. The Kora is popular in Senegal, Ivory coast , Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali.


The Kalimba consists of strips placed on a resonator. The strips comprises of varied lengths.Sound produces by plucking the ends of the flexible strips.It is popularly in west Africa and Central Africa.

The Shekere

The instruments consists of closely woven beads that from net. The net places around a gourd. In fact sound produces by either shaking it or slamming it against the hands.

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