Skip to main content

Musical Instruments in Niger

About six weeks ago John and I went to visit Niamey's music museum.  John has been there several times and has established a relationship with the center's director.  The day that John and I went, John asked if we could take pictures inside the museum without a flash.  Photography is forbidden, according to the sign at the door, but we saw people taking pictures with their phones and they were with a guide who could have said something.  Still, we felt better about specifically asking before taking pictures.  So, yes, I had permission to take these pictures.  :)

It's not a really fancy museum, and some parts of it were outdated.  For example, they had books about music that were really old and records and tapes to listen to.  It all should be digitized. It kind of looked like an idea for a place to do research on music, but the information they had in that room seemed mainly western.  But I liked the structure of the building and the way they put sand on the floors, just like there are in traditional houses.
  They also painted the walls with the designs found on traditional woven blankets as well as hanging some of the blankets themselves.  And I love that they have a mortal and pestle as an instrument.  Many of the women really get a rhythm going with their mortars and they pound with enough force that one can feel the vibration on the ground.

John is doing research on Songhai/Zarma music and its use in worship in churches, so most of the pictures we took are of Songhai/Zarma instruments.  The instruments are arranged by ethnic group.

The gumbe is made from barrels and, as far as I know, is only played at wedding dances, which, incidentally, the bride and groom don't attend.
An animal skin is stretched across the top and a section is cut from the side for greater resonance. 
Moolos....sort of like a three-string guitar, only they are plucked, not strummed.
These drums are called biiti, but I don't remember ever seeing one in Tera.  Maybe they are Zarma but not Songhai?

The dondon is used by the "town criers".  In Tera when we used to hear the beating of the dondon, we knew there was going to be an important announcement.  He would beat the drum, yell, "Everybody's listening, right?" and then proceed to give his announcement.
The gasu is a calabashed, shaped like a bowl.  A shallow hole is dug in the ground and the calabash is placed over it for greater resonance.  It can then be played one of two ways.  When played with rings on the hands it makes a sound like, well, like metal being tapped on wood, kind of like tapping your ring on the table.  But when it is hit with these sticks, it makes more of a clacking sound.  When hit with these sticks, it is always for the music that accompanies a demon possession dance.
The goje is always used in spirit possession ceremonies.  It is a one-stringed violin-sort of instrument and its distinctive sound is often described as a "wail."  Whenever we heard the goje and the gasu, we would know a demon possession ceremony was going on.  It's an eerie sound to me.

At one point I got bored waiting for John while he was talking to the museum guy so I played with my ring in the sand.  My camera is always good for passing the time when I'm bored.

We also discovered that they will make instruments for you (at a price, obviously), so John is thinking of having an instrument made.  There are also musicians there that you can take lessons from to learn to play a traditional instrument.  John wants to take some lessons, too, to learn a new instrument.  Whether or not he would do that at the center, I don't know. These are two of the musicians there who played for us.

They also have a small amphitheater.  If you bring a school or a class for a field trip and let them know ahead of time, they will make sure that there are musicians there to demonstrate various instruments to your group.  I think this would be a great place for a field trip for a music class, Nigerien history class, etc.  As I said, it's very simple and basic, but interesting never-the-less.  If you're interested, John can give you the name and phone number of the man in charge.


Popular posts from this blog

Practice Hospitality

My mother-in-law, Jean, is an amazing person with many gifts.  One of the first things I noticed about her when I was but a young bride, was her gift of hospitality.  It was nothing for her to invite a large group of people over, make each one feel welcome, cook a big meal,and seemingly do it without stressing herself out.  I don't know if hospitality just came naturally to her or if she learned it.  In this picture you can see Jean throwing a party for a class she taught in Nigeria.  

I believe that for me it has been a learned skill.  My parents were hospitable and it wasn't unusual for us to have guests over (though usually not as many at a time as my mother-in-law would do!).  But when I started living on my own, I had to learn hospitality.  The first time I invited somebody over for a meal, the lid got stuck on the pot of vegetables, I put too much salt or soda or something in the muffins, and I forgot to serve milk and sugar with the hot drinks.  I've gotten much bett…

Graduation Season

It's the season for graduations!  Yesterday I attended two graduations.  Thankfully one was in the morning and one was in the evening.  There were differences and similarities.  

The morning graduation was at the flight controller and meteorologist training school.  Six of the graduates attended our Bible study regularly and a seventh came occasionally.  We grew to dearly love this group.  

The evening ceremony was at our MK school and all of the graduates this year were missionary kids and one pastor's kids; the majority of the missionary kids were from our mission.  So I've known most of these kids since they were little. 

The similarities were:
1.  Both groups were fairly small (30 for the flight controller school and 13 for our mission school).  Both groups were very close to each other; at the flight controller school they have all classes together and live in dorms together for 14 months with only a few days off and no real vacations; at the mission school the kids have …

2016 in Review

Let's take a look at the year 2016.

January's big events were the dedication of the Tamajaq New Testament, our annual Spiritual Life Conference, helping friends find a house, a trip to visit missionaries in the bush, attended a big wedding, and celebrated John's birthday. It was a pretty busy month.  My January picture is from our trip to the bush and shows baobab trees.  

February was a little less crazy.  John started taking moolo lessons.  February is the time of year when the fresh fruits and veggies are in season so I did a lot of work to freeze veggies for the hot months ahead.  This picture isn't terribly exciting, but a year after the church burnings this church we helped plant back in 1989 finally had a new ceiling and a fresh coat of paint.

In March we attended another big wedding, froze more veggies, celebrated Easter, and visited a church in another town.  John and I have visited a lot of churches in the past three years as he has done research for his doctora…