About AMI Traditional African Instruments


In line with our commitment to African music, we produce a number of traditional African instruments. Click here for our bow catalogue and here for our log xylophone cataogue.

A traditional instrument of the Amaxhosa people of our region, this overtone instrument is creates the musical scale which forms the basis of much of their music. It consists of a light-weight single brass string bow having a resonator gourd tightly attached with a wide mouth facing away from the string. The bow is held in the left hand, string facing away from the player in a manner which allows the string to be pinched to give a note a full tone higher than the open string. The string is struck with a thin stick or reed, and the distance between the gourd and the players chest varied until the resonating frequency matches one of the overtones in the string vibration.

By changing the fundamental pitch and by varying the resonating frequency, a musical scale is built up. It is a challenging, but very rewarding instrument to learn to play, and offers a fascinating insight into an aspect of music rarely appreciated by Western musicians. AMI uhadis feature a tuning peg which allows easier tuning to other instruments and is more reliable at holding the pitch than traditional methods.

This is a smaller overtone bow sounded using a violin bowing technique, which uses mouth resonation instead of a gourd. Once again the string is stopped at a full tone up from the open note, but this time using the side of your thumb nail. Overtones are emphasized by hanging the shape of your mouth cavity, while the end of the bow is pressed against a cheek. Umrhubes are supplied with a tuning peg and horse-hair bowing stick in place of a plain stick used traditionally.

A 12-note pentatonic log xylophone from Uganda. It is used by up to three people to play interlocking patterns. The tuning is approximately equi-spaced pentatonic, starting on C, taken from the court instruments of the Kabaka of the Baganda people of central Uganda.

The full sized version of the Amadinda, this enormous instrument is played throughout central Africa in many different traditions. Possibly the best known, and certainly the most extensively studied is the music from the Baganda people of Uganda. Players sit on opposite sides and play fast interlocking patterns. Up to 6 players can be accommodated on one instrument. Traditionally only the notes are transported from place to place; they are supported on
banana tree stems and placed over a tuned pit dug into the ground for resonance. Our instrument features a sturdy wooden resonating box that doubles as a lockable container for transporting the notes.


Music in the making


External Links

Kalimba Magic
Mark Holdaway's enchanting Kalimba Magic site, your first stop for Kalimba resources, contacts and news.