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Music and Power

Ethnic group: Hausa
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Alghaita - CMC no. 2000.135.3a-b / Photo: Harry Foster


This oboe has two parts: a wooden body that is covered with leather and has four finger holes, and a mouthpiece consisting of a thin metal tube to which a double reed is attached. It is used for court music, either alone or with several others. The alghaita is played using continuous breathing. In other words, the musicians breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth as they play. They press their lips firmly against the disc, so that the reed is completely in their mouth. As the air that is compressed between their cheeks escapes, it produces the nasal, and somewhat piercing, tone characteristic of the oboe. This playing technique is widespread in Islamized countries in the Mediterranean region, as well as in places such as Chad, Niger, Madagascar, and certain countries in East and Southeast Asia.