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Six Instruments you didn’t know Came from Africa

Africa is music, and her musical instruments are used all over the world to produce sounds that are unique to the continent. From the green belts of the Serengeti to the Sahara desert, there are instruments that have been used for centuries before colonization (Trans-Atlantic and Trans-Saharan). The following are some instruments that are still in use (in their original and modernized forms) that you might not know are from Africa.


Found in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bisau (all in West Africa), the akoting is believed to have given birth to the modern-day banjo. According to oral history, the birthplace of the instrument is the village of Kanjanka in Senegal. It has a skin-headed gourd body, with two long melody strings and one drone string.


Part of the idiophone family, although used globally, a large number of these instruments originates from Africa and are known by different names, such as agidigbo, kisanji, sanza, and the Caribbean marimbula. Recorded in written history as early as the 16th century, variants of these instruments are also found in Siberia. The marimbulla variant is sometimes also used in hip-hop music.


Played like the xylophone, the balafon is a percussion instrument and can be found in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, and Burkina Faso. It has been in recorded history since the 14th century and according to oral history (told by griots) the instrument originated from Mali.

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Also an idiophone, variants of these drums can be found in Zaire (alimba), Igbo (ekwe), Congo (mukoku or lokole) and the Guinea (krin or kolokos). The `drum’ is made from hollowed-out tree trunks, with rectangular slits cut into the top, and it comes in various sizes, depending on the use it is meant for.


Basically a clay water jug with an extra hole in it, the udu is a centuries-old instrument played by the Igbo women of southeastern Nigeria. When the player hits it with their palm or fingers, it produces a liquidy, water droplet sound.


Used sometimes in jazz recordings, the algaita is a double reed wind instrument used in West Africa, mostly, by the Hausa/Kanuri people of Northern Nigeria. The body is covered in leather and, unlike the Iranian sorna, (double reed woodwind made of grass), the algaita has four finger-holes instead of seven.

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