Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.
Region: West Africa.
Description: The akonting (or ekonting in French transliteration) is the folk lute of the Jola people, found in Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. It is a banjo-like instrument with a skin-headed gourd body, two long melody strings, and one short drone string, akin to the short fifth “thumb string” on the five-string banjo.
Origin: Jola oral tradition places the birthplace of the akonting in the village of Kanjanka in Lower Casamance [Senegal], near the banks of the Casamance River. The name of the instrument’s home village is recalled in the most common tuning pattern for the akonting’s three open strings. From the 3rd short “thumb” string to the 1st long melody string [kan] the 5th note of the scale, tuned an octave higher, [jan] root note, [ka] flatted 7th note. Like in the traditional old-time/folk styles of playing the 5-string banjo, the akonting is tuned in different tunings. Using the kanjanka tuning pattern of 5/1/-7, a common tuning in Casamance is dGF. In Gambia, for another variant the 1st long melody is raised a semitone (half-step) higher to make a natural 7th note, as in cFE.