Name: Shenai.
Type: Aerophones > Shawm > Reeds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Vadya: Mangal Vadya.
Specimens: 2 in collection.
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.
Acquisition Source: Ian MacKenzie, trip to Rajasthan, India.

Description: The shehnai, shenoy, sanai, shahnai, shenai, shanai or mangal vadya or sahanai [in Hindi: शहनाई, Bengali: শানাই, Marathi: सनई, Odia: ଶାହାନାଇ, Kannada: ಸನಾದಿ] is a member of the conical double reed family. The shenai is common to North India and over all South Asia.

The variant names of this instrument including Sahanai [Nepal] are virtually the same type of instrument they may differ in tuning due to over all size and length. The shenai is used in religious events but in recent times it became an instrument of virtuosity. The introduction of the shenai to western audiences was by George Harrison’s “Wonderwall” album. Furthering a passion for Indian Classical Music in the west since the 1960s.

Techniques: In the hands of a great player the shenai creates a fluid tone rich in subtleties and expression. The shenai is played with the pads of the second joint of the finger rather than the finger tips to enable the fingers to be slowly rocked off the holes to produce a flawless unbroken portamento of up to almost a full octave. The shenai is usually played with another shenai [sur] holding a drone.

Construction: The shenai has a reed that is folded multiple times, this allows for the embodiment of four or six reeds. The reeds are made from folding a leaf and cutting it in shape, so that when its bound to the mouth piece, the reed spreads with equal amount of tongues on both-sides. Usually the shenai has a small piece of wool around the reed so that when tightened it can splay the reed further.

Citations: Bibliography: Ranade, Ashok Damodar 2006 ; Music contexts: a concise dictionary of Hindustani Music. Bibliophile South Asia – ISBN 81-85002-63-0 ; Hoiberg, Dale – Indu Ramchandani 2000 Students’ Britannica India. Popular Prakashan ; Websites:


Name: Midjweh.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Single.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Country: Egypt.
Region: Middle East & Mediterranean.

Description: The midjweh is an ancient folk clarinet found in the Nile region of Egypt. It has several analogue instruments that are found through out the Mediterranean Near East and as far away as western China. The midjweh has two identical pipes bound together and parallel sound holes. The midjweh is considered to be one of the oldest instruments of the Nile region. The midjweh player is often accompanied by another midjweh player or a drummer.

The Midjweh one of the reed-pipes referred to in the Bible, and depictions of the midjweh are found on the walls of the Egyptian funeral chambers. The midjweh is also known by a number of names including midjwiz and midjwiz. Many people confuse this instrument with the arghul that is a related instrument with only one melody pipe and a drone.

Playing Technique: The pipes are played in unison by placing the fingers across both pipes. Both reeds are totally enclosed in the mouth, and circular breathing is employed to create a continuous flow of air. Circular breathing is awkward on this instrument though, due to the depth that the reeds extend into the mouth, and this has resulted in related instruments, such as the pungi or bagpipes, having wind chambers. The reeds are made by a slight cut into a small section of cane with a closed nodal point.

The performer holds the midjweh with both hands nearly horizontally in front of him with the finger-holes up. The bulk of the reeds are situated inside the mouth cavity with the player’s lips creating a tight seal abound them. The first three fingers of one hand cover the top three finger-holes of both tubes, the first three fingers of the other hand the bottom three.

In order to finger both tubes simultaneously, the soft pads between the knuckles are used to cover the holes. The notes on the two pipes are purposefully tuned slightly apart from one another so as to produce an acoustic beat. The technique of circular breathing is used by performers to achieve a continuous flow of melody. Melodies are typically narrow in range. Each reed pipe is by itself not very loud, so having two of them sounding simultaneously increases the instrument’s volume.

Construction: The midjweh consists of two tubes, each made of three interlocking segments of reed fitted into one another. The longest segment is an open tube, it has s cylindrical bore. The midjweh has six equally distanced finger-holes in a row and lacks a thumb hole on the bottom side of the instrument. These two tubes are securely bound together with tarred cotton cord at three points along their length so that their lines of finger-holes run parallel to one another.

A short about 2 inches in length second section, likewise of two parallel tubes of cane, but with no finger-holes, is inserted into the top end of the finger-hole section. Separate 2-inch lengths of reed are then inserted into the top ends of the second section. These reed tubes, closed at their top end, have a deep back cut in them along much of their length to articulate a single flexible lamellae or idioglot reed, this instrument is classified as an idioglot because the reed is not a separate entity attached to the tube, but part of the tube itself.

Citations: Bibliography: Hassan, Scheherazade Qassim 2002 – “Musical Instruments in the Arab World.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 6. The Middle East. ed ; Virginia Danielson, Scott Marcus, and Dwight Reynolds. New York: Routledge, pp. 401-423 ; Marcus, Scott L. 2007 ; Music in Egypt: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press ; Marcuse, Sibyl. 1975. A Survey of Musical Instruments. New York: Harper and Row ; Morris, R. Conway. 1984. “‘Çifte [çifte].” NGDMI v.1: p. 369 ; Picken, Laurence. 1975. Folk Musical Instruments of Turkey. London: Oxford University Press ; Poché, Christian. 1984. “‘Mijwiz [midjwiz, miğwiz, mizwidj; mizwij]” NGDMI v.2: p. 661 ; Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch [Midjweh Article] @ ; Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection [Midjweh article] ;


Name: Idakka.
Type: Membranophones > Drums > Hourglass.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 211.3
Country: Kerala, India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The idakka [in Malayalam: ഇടയ്ക്ക or alternatively spelt as edaykka / edakka] is a small sized hourglass drum from Kerala, South India. Similar in resemblance and construction to the damaru.

Playing Techniques: Playing the idakka does differ then, the playing of the damaru. The damaru is struck by knotted cords against the membranes. Also the idakka is played with a stick. Similarly the the idakka’s pitch may be bent by squeezing the lacing in the middle. The idakka is slung over the left shoulder and the right side of the instrument is gently beaten with a thin curve-ended stick.

Construction: Similar in appearance to other hourglass drums of this size. The Idakka consists of two circular drum heads that are mounted to each other within a circular ring. The hourglass-shaped body is placed between the two heads and lacing is used to pull the two rings towards each other, stretching each drum head over an open end of the body.

Snare-like strings made of natural fibre are stretched across the open ends of the drum body, under each drum head. It is not uncommon for the diameter of the drum heads to be larger than the diameter of the body, with the result that the drum heads are often seen mounted significantly off-center.

Citations: Bibliography: New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments by Stanley Sadie, Pg 278. K.S. Kothari: Indian Folk Musical Instruments [New Delhi , 1968] ras, x1viii 1977, Pg 164 ;


Name: Chengila.
Type: Idiophones > Metallophones > Gongs.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 111.241
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The chengila [in Malayalam: ചെംഗില Ceṅgilā or in Telugu: చెంగిలా Ceṅgilā in Tamil: சென்கிள Ceṉkiḷa] cennala is an Indian gong which helps the traditional singer or dancer keep time. The chengila is a percussion instrument that maintains a steady beat and provides musical background.

Playing Techniques: The thick bell metal disc, which hangs by a strap looped around one wrist, is struck by a short wand held in the other hand. A ringing sound is produced when the chengila is struck when hanging freely; a flat tone is produced when it is struck while held against the forearm

Citations: Bibliography: “Chengila”. Online Highways LLC ; Manu, Meera. “Rustic Rhapsody”. The New Indian Express ; “Kathalki Dance”. Keralahistory ;


An idiochord [Latin: idio – “self”, chord – “string”, also known as a drum zither] is a musical instrument in which the “string” of the instrument is made from the same material as its resonating body. Such instruments may be found in the Indian Ocean region, disparate regions of Africa and its diaspora, and parts of Europe and North America.

Bamboo is often a popular material for idiochords: a tube of bamboo may be slit to loosen portions of the husk at the middle, leaving them attached at the ends, and these “strings” may be raised up by inserting sticks to serve as bridges. Such bamboo idiochords include the valiha of Madagascar, the kulibit in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the karaniing of the Mon-Khmer “Orang Asli” tribal peoples of Malaysia. A massive one-string bamboo idiochord, the benta, is native to Jamaica and played with a slide, much like a diddly-bow.

Idiochords are also made from other materials; cornstalk was used in North America to make the cornstalk fiddle, and the same instrument was played in the Carpathians and in Serbia as the gingara or djefje guslice. In Eastern New Guinea, one-string idiochords are made from the rib of the sago palm. The Warao people of Venezuela and Guyana create a monochord idiochord by raising up a fibre from an eta leaf.

Various idiochords are found in mainland Africa, including the akadingidi of Uganda, and the one-string mpeli of the Mpyeme people of Congo and the Central African Republic.


Name: Ikembe.
Types: Idiophones > Lamellaphones > Combs.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 122.1
Country: Many.
Region: Africa.

Description: The Ikembe is a plucked lamellaphone that is found through out many countries in Eastern Africa, including the Congo DRC, Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania, Mozambique. As so it has numerous different names applied by the cultures who this instrument is found. For example likimbe, likembe [Amba of Uganda and the Tabura of the Congo Basin], lulimba [Yao of Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique], lukembe [Alur and Acholi of Uganda], irimba and kajimba [Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique], itshilimba [Bemba of Zambia], karimba [Zimbabwe], kalimba and ikembe Bahutu of Rwanda and Burundi.

Etymology: For example likimbe, likembe [Amba of Uganda and the Tabura of the Congo Basin], lulimba [Yao of Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique], lukembe [Alur and Acholi of Uganda], irimba and kajimba [Makonde of Tanzania and Mozambique], itshilimba [Bemba of Zambia], karimba [Zimbabwe], kalimba and ikembe Bahutu of Rwanda and Burundi. There are many other names for this instrument, but the predominance of names with this root is undeniable. The spelling is not as important as the sound that is made in vocalizing the names,

In Swahili the word imba means song. Kuimba means to sing, as in the phrase “nitakwenda kuimba” [I go to sing]. Swahili, as in many languages, uses a type of binomial nomenclature to create new words to describe unfamiliar or new objects, occurrences or people, based on existing words or concepts.

By combining part of the word for mother = ma with the word for song = imba using r as a connector we come up with the word marimba = mother of song. We can then extrapolate from the research of A.M. Jones, quoted by Osborne that ka = small combined with the word imba = song should mean little mother of song.

Osborne cites examples of various names for these mbira from all over the continent, which have the Swahili word for song as their root. Admittedly, Swahili, like English, is not a virgin language, but rather a combination of a variety of languages making it useful for trading purposes.

However, at the root it’s still based on the Bantu languages of the peoples of Central and East Africa, which again is why it is so useful as a language of trade. A cursory examination of the root of these words gives us these common variations: imba, imbe and embe.

Citations: Bibliography: Anderson, Lois. The Miko Modal System of Kiganda Xylophone Music. 2 vols. Phd Diss. UCLA, 1968 ; Galpin, Francis. A textbook of European musical instruments, their origin, history and character. [reprint] Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1976 ; Wiggins, Trevor and Joseph Kobom – Xylophone music from Ghana. Crown Point, IN: White Cliffs Media, 1992 ; Warner Dietz, Betty and Olatunji, Michael Babatunde, 1965. Musical Instruments of Africa: Their Nature, Use, and Place in The Life of a Deeply Musical People. New York: John Day Company ; Ottenberg, Simon. Seeing with Music: The Lives of 3 Blind African Musicians. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1996 ; Tracey, Hugh, ‘A Case for the Name Mbira’ in the African Music Society Journal, no. 3 [1964] ;


Name: Ching.
Type: Idiophones > Metallophones > Cymbals.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 111.142
Country: Cambodia & Thailand.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: Ching [also spelled Chheng in Khmer: ឈិង or Chhing, Thai: ฉิ่ง] are finger cymbals played in Cambodian and Thai theater and dance ensembles.

History: Evidence of the ching has been found in Angkor, the great temple-city of Khmer civilization, where classical art flourished between the ninth to the fifth centuries. Scenes carved in the walls of the temple depict celestial dancers with their musical instruments, including small cymbals in the form of the ching.

Playing Techniques: They are struck together in a cyclical pattern to keep time and regulate the melody, and they function as the “timekeeper” of the ensemble. The rhythm typically consists of alternating the accented closed stroke with an unaccented open “ching” stroke. The name “ching” is probably onomatopoeic for this open sound.

Construction: The ching is Joined by a cord that runs through the center of each cymbal, ching are bowl-shaped, about 5 cm in diameter, and made of bronze alloy of iron, copper, and gold.

Citations: Bibliography: Sam, Sam-Ang 1994 ; Ebihara ; Sam, Sam-Ang. Miller, Terry E.; Williams, Sean [eds.]. “The Khmer People of Cambodia”. The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music ; Tran, Quang Hai. “Pin Peat” – Stanley Sadie, New Grove Dictionary of Music ;


Name: Bartal.
Type: Idiophones > Metallophones > Cymbals.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 111.141
Country: Assam, India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The bartal are a pair of large heavy metal cymbals [36 cm in diameter] of Assam India. Each cymbal has a large boss [knob] and when clashed. Their deep resonant tone can be heard for over 15 seconds. The barrel is used in Bargit [devotional singing and dancing] and also as an accompaniment

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary Of Music, Vol. 1, Book A to F page 163 ;


Name: Claves.
Type: Idiophones > Percussion > Sticks.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 111.11
Country: Many, Cuba.
Region: Caribbean & Central America.

Description: Claves are very important in Cuban music, such as the son and guaguancó. They are often used to play a repeating rhythmic figure throughout a piece, known as clave, a key pattern [or guide-pattern, timeline pattern, phrasing referent, bell pattern] that is also found in African music and Brazilian music.

Playing Techniques: The basic principle when playing claves is to allow at least one of them to resonate. The usual technique is to hold one lightly with the thumb and fingertips of the non-dominant hand, with the palm facing up. This forms the hand into a resonating chamber for the clave.

Holding the clave on top of finger nails makes the sound clearer. The other is held by the dominant hand at one end with a firmer grip, much like how one normally holds a drumstick. With the end of this clave, the player strikes the resting clave in the center. Traditionally, the striking clave is called el macho [the male] and the resting clave is called la hembra [the female].

Citations: Bibliography: “Claves”, Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, 2, 2003, pp. 352–355 Karl Peinkofer and Fritz Tannigel, Handbook of Percussion Instruments, Mainz, Germany: Schott 1976, 142; Godfried T. Toussaint, “A mathematical analysis of African, Brazilian, and Cuban clave rhythms,” Proceedings of BRIDGES: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music and Science, Towson University, Towson, MD, July 27–29, 2002, pp. 157–168. Steve Reich, Writings about Music, New York University Press, 1974 ;


Name: Qanbus.
Type: Cordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Tuning: G / B / D / A / E
Country: Yemen, Malaysia.
Region: Middle East, Africa & South East Asia.

Description: A qanbūs or gambus [in Arabic: قنبوس‎ qanbūs] is a short-necked lute that originated in Yemen and spread throughout the Arabian peninsula. Sachs considered that it derived its name from the Turkic khomuz, but it is more comparable to the oud.

Distribution: The qanbūs spread through out the Middle East, on route to South East Asia by trade routes on the Indian Ocean. Southeast Asia especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei where it is called the gambus, it sparked a whole musical genre of its own.

Today it is played in Johor, South Malaysia, in the traditional dance Zapin and other genres, such as the Malay ghazal and an ensemble known as kumpulan gambus “gambus group”. Kumpulan gambus can also be found active in Sabah, especially in the Bongawan district of East Malaysian Borneo. In the Comoros it is known as gabusi and in Zanzibar as gabbus.

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music – Page 9, Gambus by Margret J. Kartomi ;

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