Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Kids & Teachers


Two forerunners to this modern variant of a shakuhachi are the gagaku shakuhachi and the hitoyogiri. The former was introduced to Japan from China during the Nara Period, (794-1192), and died out by the early Darmakura Period, (1192-1600). The hitoyogiri was played by mendicant priests who were known as Komoso. The popularity of this instrument diminished during the Edo Period (1600-1868) in favor of the modern shakuhachi. (Japanese)

A ryuteki is one of Japan's classical tranverse flutes. Ryuteki, hichiriki (short double-reed woodwind), and sho (Japanese version of sheng), form the heart of Togaku ensemble in Gagaku music, a style of classical music which has existed since the 8th century. (Japanese)

The bandura, a Ukrainian national instrument with thirty steel strings, can be played as a solo instrument but is best suited as an accompaniment to solo or group singing. The bandura is played by striking the strings with the fingertips and fingernails. This specific bandura was created for the museum in 1969. (Ukrainian)

An Estonian immigrant named Alfred Aasma made this kannel, a form of zither, before he emigrated to Canada in the 1920s. More than forty years later, he donated it to the Museum. The kannel has 48 metal strings. (Estonian)

The lute is the most important musical instrument in the countries of the Near and Middle East. An ancestor of the Western lute, it spread through Islam in various forms. The instrument illustrated, which was designed between 1967 and 1975, constitutes a synthesis of modern experimental research and the art of making traditional stringed instruments. This "violut", as its creator Maher Akili calls it, is the product of joint research with several musicians, composers, acoustics experts, and stringed-instrument manufacturers. Marrying traditional techniques and innovation so as to extend the instrument's acoustical range, it features sympathetic strings added to the soundboard and inlays on the back to enrich the tone of the violut. Like the Moslem artists who found an inexhaustible source of inspiration in the orderly arrangement of lines, Akili used geometric forms on his violut to create a motif in mother-of-pearl and ivory that is repeated four times. The detail of the design shows how the play of figure and ground allows the initial diamond motif to expand into a six-pointed star, simultaneously evoking the image of a hexagon and an abstract floral theme. Simple repetition of these interwoven lozenges generated the graceful shapes on the back of the lute. The art of the stringed-instrument maker thus combines the functional with the aesthetic, wedding the beauty of the sound to that of the object and the quality of the workmanship to that of the decoration. [Treasures] (Egyptian)

The inzad has one string and is played with a bow. Several variants of this instrument can be found in West Africa, especially in Islamized countries. It is made from half a calabash, which serves as a resonator, to which the skin of a goat is nailed. A circular opening is cut in the skin. The string, made of horsehair, is attached to the neck and held in place by two strips of leather.

The inzad is played by women and has both a therapeutic and a recreational purpose. Its therapeutic function is to drive certain spirits out of the body of people who are ill or to treat certain illnesses. Recreationally, it accompanies the poems sung by men, which praise the bravery and heroic deeds of warriors. In the past, when the Tuareg were waging war against neighbouring groups, caravans and colonial troops, the inzad was played to encourage the warriors and glorify their bravery. If a warrior was valiant and courageous, it was said that he deserved the inzad. (Carmelle Bégin. Janvier 2001) (Touareg)

This lute is found only in North Vietnam, where it is used to accompany professional female singers. Today, it is played only by men. No other country in Southeast Asia has this instrument, which is believed to have been invented in the eleventh century. The example shown here has a rosewood body. It is held vertically, and its silk strings allow the musician to display great virtuosity. (Carmelle Bégin, CMC.) (Vietnamese)

This percussion instrument is crafted from a hollow block of rosewood, which female singers strike with sticks to accompany their singing. (Carmelle Bégin, CMC.) (Vietnamese)

This zither has 16 strings stretched across 16 movable bridges. It is played mainly by women. The musician plucks the strings between the tailpiece and the bridges with the fingernails of the thumb and index finger of the right hand, or with a tortoiseshell pick, while the left hand exerts pressure on the strings to modify their tension. This modifies the pitch and produces a rich ornamentation. (Vietnamese)

This four-stringed lute is shaped like an elongated pear. It is an aristocratic instrument played by both men and women, and is used at the court and for entertainment. It is played with the fingernails of the right hand. The top of the neck is carved in the form of a bat, an animal whose name is a homonym of the word happiness. (Vietnamese)

This wooden hourglass-shaped drum has a single skin that is held in place by ropes. Another rope is tightened around these to stretch the skin and modify the pitch. (Vietnamese)

The lunga is an hourglass-shaped drum. The notes are obtained by pressing the arm against the cords that tighten and loosen the skins, one of which is struck with a curved stick. This drum may be used for secular purposes. It is played during agricultural work, and at dances and other popular festivities. The ultimate speaking instrument, it recites the genealogies of the chiefs during important ceremonies of the court. (Carmelle Bégin CMC.) (Mossi)

Kettle drum used by the shaman, made horse skin stretched tightly over the end of a round frame. This frame is made from the trunk of a cinnamon tree. On the skin, the shaman paints figures from magical and religious world, which should not be considered as mere decorations. (Chilean)

This is an average-size djembé, a percussion instrument. There is also a large version (djembé ba) and a smaller one (djembé den) that must be played together and that play a key role in musical customs of the Malinké, Khassonké and sedentary people of Wasulun. The large and the small djembé are accompanied by the kettle drum called dunun.

The djembé is found in West Africa and played, among others, by the Mandingo people of Guinea, Mali and Ivory Coast. It was played traditionally by blacksmiths and used during ritual ceremonies, when taking out masks and during festivities such as weddings. Nowadays, it is found not only in Africa, but also in several locations throughout the world and it is associated with several genres of traditional, urban or popular music. (Malian)

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