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Music and Power

Donso ngoni
Ethnic groups: Peul and Bamanan
Made by
Mamourou Camara
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Donso n'goni - CMC no. 2000.139.1a-b / Photo: Harry Foster


The harp-lute is a six-stringed instrument whose sound box consists of a calabash covered with goatskin. On the skin there is a bridge that is held in place by four strings and has six holes arranged in two parallel rows. The neck is made of a hard wood and passes through the calabash. The Peul and several other West African communities use the harp-lute. According to the Bamanan of Mali, the bara gourd that serves as the instrument's resonator evokes what is secret and, by analogy, the womb (where all ideas reside), humanity, secret science and the world. The power and secret of the hunters' harp-lute therefore reside in the resonator and the player's mouth. This instrument's music is devoted to the hunt, but it is also heard during annual festivals and national holidays.