“What an Interesting Looking Item”: Oh wait, it’s a musical instrument!Instruments from Around the World
How to BeginGetting started in learning about musical instruments in other cultures is easy. Just click on the following buttons to move through the tutorial. To return to the beginning of the tutorial, click on the home button. To return to the previous page, click on the back arrow button. To move to the next page in the tutorial, click on the forward button.
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”-PlatoMusic is in our everyday lives. For most of us, we are consumer of music through television, computer, internet or radio. Some of us are actually musicians. The purpose of this tutorial is to show you how people in other cultures and countries from around the world use music and instruments in their lives. Sometimes, they use instruments the same way we do in America and other times they use them in different ways. Also, people in other countries use vastly different materials in the construction of their instruments. Let’s begin our journey on the continent of Asia in the country of Japan!
The Music of JapanJapan is a small island country off the coast of China. The traditionalmusic of Japan has melodies based off a five note musical scalecalled a pentatonic scale.When groups of instruments, or ensembles play together intraditional Japanese music, every element is planned and important,even bodily gestures. It is all a part of the musical experience.However, these ensembles are small and the music is moreimportant than personal expression.Some of the most important instruments in Japanese music are thekoto, shakuhachi, and shamisen.
The ShakuhachiThe shakuhachi [shah-koo-HAH-chee] is a type ofwoodwind instrument . It is an end-blown flute made ofbamboo. On the front of the flute there are four fingerhole. On the back it has one hole for the thumb.While playing the flute, the performer can move his headaround to create different effects in the sound of themusic such as bends, slides and shakes. He does this togive ornamentation to the melody.The shakuhachi is often used by Buddhist monks duringZen meditation. Monks like to use this instrumentbecause of the sound quality or timbre it possesses.
The ShakuhachiHere is a video of a performer on the Shakuhachi. Click to watch.
The Music of NorwayMost Norwegian folk songs are religious songs or ballads. In their songs they use a special type ofvocals which resembles shouting called cattle calls. In Norwegian music, they use an instrument thatis very similar to a fiddle called a Hardanger fiddle. This fiddle is most often used to accompanytraditional Norwegian folk dancing.
The Hardanger FiddleHardanger fiddle has four melody strings and four or five sympathetic strings. Thesympathetic strings are not touched by the bow, however, since those strings still vibratetheir sounds can be heard.
The Hardanger FiddleHere is a video of performers of the Hardanger Fiddle. Click to watch.
The Music of PeruMuch of the music performed in Peru is used for various festivals throughout the year. Peru has a richmusical history that dates back thousands of years to the time of the Incas. Some of the instrumentsplayed in Peru today have their origins in Peru’s pre-Columbian history. Unfortunately, some of thetraditional Incan and Peruvian music has been lost due to war and the mixing of cultures. Though, theIncas did inherit from the indigenous people of the Andes mountains many different forms of brass andwoodwind instruments. Of these, the conch shell trumpet is most fascinating.
The Conch TrumpetThe conch shell trumpet is a trumpet made of the conch shell that can be found on mostbeaches. It is played by causing a vibration between the lips of the player and by blowingair through the smaller end of the conch shell. The Inca military musicians played conchshell trumpets as a call to arms and as a rallying cry.
The Conch TrumpetHere is a video of a performer on the Conch Trumpet. Click to watch.
The Music of West AfricaCostal West Africa is made up of many small countries: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea,Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and parts ofMali, Niger, and Chad. All of these countries have their own distinct musical traditions, however onething remains constant , they all use some form of drumming to communicate to each other or forentertainment.
The Kalangu DrumAn hourglass- shaped drum is found throughout West Africa is called the kalangu drum. It is alsosometimes known as the “talking drum” because of the many different sounds it can produce while itis being played. It has a double head with an intricate lacing system that allows the player to changeis arm pressure as the instrument is being struck. Adding and subtracting the tension on the drum iswhat changed the pitch and gives it its talking quality. They are often used to communicate acrosswide open spaces.
The Kalangu DrumHere is a video of a group of performers of the kalangu drum. Click to watch .