Name: Lesiba.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Braced > Mouth.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 311.121.222
Country: South Africa.
Region: Africa.

Description: The lesiba is the national instrument of the Basotho, a southern African people, now located primarily in South Africa and Lesotho and the Khoikhoi people of South Africa. The lesiba is played mostly by herdsmen and herdboys to give signals and instructions to their cattle and almost as much, for their own entertainment.

Though a very few people alive today play this instrument. The harsh birdlike sounds of the instrument are so well recognized among the Sotho that it is used on Lesotho Radio to signal the start of the news broadcast.

Etymology: The word lesiba is Tswana for feather, the term is adopted in Sotho. It is also called gora or goura [in Khoisan, for a type of bird. This term has also been adapted by the Xhosa and Zulu] are members of a class of “unbraced mouth-resonated bow’s”.

Playing Techniques: Holding both hands around the quill, positioned without touching just inside the lips, the player sharply inhales or exhales against it, creating vibration in the string. This “produces a powerful buzzing sound,” usually in short notes on a small, limited scale.

Inhalation excites the harmonics of the string, while exhalation is most often accompanied by a throaty grunt. Except in players with strong breath, and may be accompanied by humming. Vocalizations are created by the musician performing the lesiba for effect. The harmonics used are primarily the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and twelfth.

Acoustics: According to Borrow in 1806, the instrument sounds “like the faint murmurs of distance music that comes over the ear. Without any distinction of notes. Barnard in 1910 noted the loudness of the instrument, while Alberti in 1810 compared the sounds to the “tones of the so-called Hunting-horn,” presumably a reference to the shared use of the harmonic series.

According to Kirby in 1934, “the tone is, very pleasant when well produced, partaking of the qualities of both string and wind, reminding one of the Aeolian harp; and it can be varied in power from a faint whisper to a strong, vibrant sound, the air column of the mouth and throat acting as a resonator”.

Construction: Having a flattened quill attached to a long string, the string is stretched over a hard stick. Acting as the main source of Vibration. At the other end, in some areas, is a coconut shell resonator, with a tension noose wrapped around the string to adjust the pitch. The lesibas construction is unique: “no other class of stringed-wind instrument has been found anywhere else in the world.

Citations: Bibliography: Percival Kirby 2009 – “The Gora, a Stringed-wind Instrument” The World of South African Music: A Reader, p.36.  Lucia, Christine; ed. Cambridge. ISBN 1904303366 ; Coplan, David B. 1994 – In the Time of Cannibals: The Word Music of South Africa’s Basotho Migrants, p. 203. University of Chicago ISBN 9780226115740 ;


Name: Ahardin.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Mono.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 311.121.222
Country: Niger & Mali
Region: Sahel & West Africa.

Description: The Ahardin is a musical bow played by southern Tuaregs consists of a curved branch held with a twisted rope of raw leather or bark of acacia. Serving as a sound box, a reversed calabash is placed on the curved part of the bow on the ground.

Similarly the ahardant, feminine of ahardin, is also the name of a plucked string instrument, a kind of lute played throughout the region of the Niger River loop, by “court craftsmen” in the Tuaregs and by griots in the Songhai.

Playing Techniques: To hold the whole, the player presses her knee on the container. With the fingers of the left hand, as with the imzad, she defines the melody, while with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, she grip the string with a regular gesture vibrate. At present, the ahardin, an instrument whose manufacture is easily improvised, is considered above all as a game played by girls.

Citations: Bibliography: Claudot-Hawad, H. 1986. “Ahardin”. Encyclopédie berbère. 3 -Ahaggar – Alī ben Ghaniya. Aix-en-Provence: Edisud. pp. 311–312 ;


Name: Bobre.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: Mauritius & Reunion Islands.
Region: Indian Ocean.

Description: The bobre is a musical bow that is a traditional musical bow in Mauritius and the Réunion Islands. This bow was used particularly in the traditional genres of Sega and Maloya. Although no longer used in Mauritian Sega it is still played in Reunion Islands.

Playing Techniques: It is held close to body of the musician who holds bow in his left hand. The musician plays the bow by striking the string with a small stick that is held in the right hand.

Construction: Similar to the berimbau of Brazil in both playing techniques and construction. It is a single stringer bow that has a calabash or gourd attached near the centre of the bow.

Citations: Bibliography: K. Lee, Jacques 1990 – Sega: the Mauritian folk dance ; Indiana University. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-9511296-1-6. Retrieved 2009-07-31 ; James Porter; Timothy Rice ; Chris Goertzen 1999 ; The Garland encyclopedia of world music. Indiana University: Taylor & Francis. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1. Retrieved 2009-07-31 ;


Name: Malunga.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The Malunga is a single stringed musical bow that is played by the Siddi people of India. The Siddi people are the descendants of East African immigrants. This instrument produces two tones an octave apart.

Playing Techniques: This instrument produces two tones an octave apart. The knuckle of the hand supporting the instrument an also maybe pressed against the string to vary the pitch. Similar to the berimbau of Brazil it is struck with a stick and held in a similar manner during playing. A rattle called the Mai Misra is placed along the string it also varies the pitch. Although it is becoming scarce the malunga one that can still be encountered in Siddi music.

Construction: The malunga is constructed from a single solid core bamboo and the string is made of three twisted strands of gut. The gourd resonator is made from a coconut shell and is a mobile part of the instrument. The gourd resonator amplifies the instrument when it is played.

Citations: Bibliography: Projeto Sidi Malunga ISBN 1-880519-28-3 ; Websites:


Name: Berimbau.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: Brazil.
Region: South America.

Description: The berimbau [Portuguese pronunciation in IPA: beɾĩˈbaw] is a single-string percussion instrument. A musical bow from Brazil. Originally from Africa where it receives different names. The berimbau was eventually incorporated into the practice of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira. The berimbau “the soul of capoeira” leads the capoeiristas movement in the roda.

The faster the berimbau is playing the faster the capoeirista moves in the game. The instrument is known for being the subject matter of a popular song by Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes. The instrument is also a part of Candomblé-de-caboclo tradition.

History: The origins of the berimbau have yet been fully researched. Though the consensus of its origins point to Africa as there are no known musical bows played among the Indigenous, Brazilians and Europeans. By the twentieth century, the instrument was with the jogo de capoeira [game of capoeira] which had come to be known as the berimbau, a Portuguese misnomer. The Portuguese used this word for their musical instrument the guimbarde also known as a jaw-harp.

As the jaw-harp and hungu shared some similarities where the latter was held in the mouth, akin to how the African lamellophone came to be known in English as the “hand piano” or “thumb piano.” The smaller type of the African bow in which the performer’s mouth is used as a resonator was called the “berimbau de boca” [mouth guimbarde] whereas the gourd-resonating type became the “berimbau de barriga” [belly guimbarde].

Playing Techniques: The berimbau and the m’bulumbumba of southwest Angola are made and played are very similar, as well as the tuning and basic patterns performed on these instruments. The assimilation of this African instrument into the Brazilian capoeira is evident also in other Bantu terms used for musical bows in Brazilian Portuguese, including urucungo and madimba lungungu.

For playing the berimbau, one holds it in their left hand by wrapping the two middle fingers around the verga and the little finger under the cabaça’s string loop [the “anel”] and balancing the weight there. A small stone or coin a pedra or dobrão is held between the index and thumb of the same hand that holds the berimbau.

The cabaça is rested against the abdomen. In the left hand one holds a playing stick or baqueta or “vaqueta” usually the playing sticks are carved of wood. Although rarely made of metal and a caxixi [shaker] is held in the same hand, during performance.

One strikes the arame with the baqueta to produce the sound. The caxixi accompanies the baqueta. The dobrão is moved back and forth from the arame to change the pitch produced by the berimbau. The sound can also be altered by moving the cabaça back and forth from the abdomen, producing a wah-like sound.

Construction: The berimbau consists of a wooden bow, a verga – traditionally made from biribá wood [Rollinia deliciosa] which grows in Brazil, about 4 to 5 feet or 1.2 to 1.5 metres in length, with a steel string [in Portuguese: arame] – often pulled from the inside of an automobile tire tightly strung and secured from one end of the verga to the other.

Cabaça: it should be pointed out that the cabaca comes often a fruit of a species that is unrelated to the gourd [family Cucurbitaceae]. The gourd used in the construction of it is the fruit of an unrelated species, the tree Crescentia cujete [family Bignoniaceae] known in Brazil as calabaça, cueira and cuia or cabaceira. Traditional berimbaus or those of high quality are usually plain. Decorative berimbaus came about in lue of tourism since the 1950s.

Caxixi: A small woven rattle with filler that could be of seeds, or lead shot is filled to a small amount. When played with the berimbau the caxixi accentuates the rhythm in performance.

Arame [wire]: The main playing wire attached to the berimbau from end to end.

Pedra or Dobrão: Small stone or coin pressed against the arame to change the tone of the berimbau Baqueta: small stick struck against the arame to produce the sound Caxixí: small rattle that optionally accompanies the baqueta in the same hand ; Capoeiristas split berimbaus in three categories:

Berra-boi or Gunga: Lowest tone Médio [others say viola]: medium tone Viola [violinha if the medium tone is viola]: highest tone These categories relate to sound, not to size. The berimbau’s quality does not depend on the length of the verga or the size of the gourd, rather on the diameter and hardness of the verga’s wood and the quality of the gourd.

Verga [Bow]: The verga forms the main component of the berimbau biribá wood [Rollinia deliciosa] which grows in Brazil, about 4 to 5 feet or 1.2 to 1.5 metres in length.

Citations: Bibliography: Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium Retrieved 2015-04-11. Funso S. Afọlayan 2004 – Culture and Customs of South Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-32018-7 ; Obi, T. J. Desch 2008 – Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World – Columbia, South Carolina, USA: University of South Carolina Press. p. 184. ISBN 9781570037184 ; O Estado de S. Paulo, 6–12 April 2011 Suplemento Agrícola, page 2 ; Houaiss Dictionary ;


Name: Kawayawaya.
Type: Chordophones > Bow > Idiochords > Percussive > Scraped.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: South Eastern Angola.
Region: Africa.

Description: The kawayawaya is a scraped unbraced mouth bow of the Mbwela and neighbouring peoples of South Eastern Angola. It is similar to the Xizambi of the Tsonga, but it is sounded with a plain stick not with the use of a rattle across the notches in the stave.

Citations: Bibliography: Gerhard Kubik; Musica traditional e acultrada dos! Kung de Angola [Lisbon, 1970, 33 pll, 14/15 ; Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music, Book G to O page 366 ;

Villa Paatu

Name: Villu Paatu.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: Villu Paatu [in Tamil: வில்லுப்பாட்டு and English: Bow Song] another alternative name of the villu paatu is [in Tamil: வில்லடிச்சம்பாடு Villadichampaatu], is an ancient form of musical story-telling in India where narration is interspersed with music, an art of southern state of Kerala and Thovalai in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

This art form is popular among Nadar and Chettiar castes of erstwhile Travancore kingdom. Simple tunes and verses make the story to be followed easily. The villu [bow] likely having its origins from the bow as used by warriors. This paradoxically lends itself to be used as a primary musical instrument for the Villu Paatu artists.

Repertoire: Throughout Tamil villages, performers narrate stories ranging from mythological to social. The main storyteller narrates the story striking the bow. The bow rests on a clay pot kept facing downwards. A co-performer beats the pot while singing. There is usually another co-singer who acts as active listener to the narration, uttering appropriate oral responses. The local government sometime utilize this as a vehicle for social messages and propaganda.

When the villu paatu is being played, in accompaniment with Udukku [In Tamil: உடுக்கை], Kudam [In Tamil: குடம்], Thala, Kattai [In Tamil: கட்டை], which are used as supplementary instruments in performances. Udukku is a small drum with a slender middle portion which is held in the left hand and played by the fingers of the right hand. Occasionally, the Villu Pattu team divides itself into two groups, each trying to prove opposite points-of-view of a subject.

This is called Lavani Pattu. The songs used by the Villu Pattu artists are mostly traditional folk-songs. They are played during occasions of temple festivals in villages. The songs sung mostly in Villu Paatu praise a god or tell a story. These days the number of artists performing Villu Paatu is tremendously reduced as the income earned from it is never enough for running one’s life.


Citations: Bibliography: Websites


Name: Onavillu.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The Onavillu is a simple, short, bow-shaped musical instrument. Its name may come from Onam, a festival in Kerala where the instrument is used in dances, and villu, which means ‘bow’ in Malayalam and several other South Indian languages. Although still regularly used in rural art forms, use of the onavillu is on the decline.

The ceremonial onavillu, which is not a musical instrument, is made from a flat piece of wood 1.27 cm or 1/2 inch thick, tapering on both sides. Sizes may range from 106.6 cm / 3.5 feet in length by 10.16 cm / 4 inches in width; 137.1 cm by 4.5 feet. The wood of kadambu, maruthu, jack fruit tree and aanjili trees are preferred [See List of Indian timber trees].

The wood is cut to the required dimension before being decorated with miniature paintings of Anantha Sayanam [reclining pose of Lord Vishnu] and avatars Dasavatharam, Shri Rama Pattabhishekam and Shri Krishna Leela. Ashari family residing near Pujapura Trivandrum are the right to make the red tassels used to adorn the bows; The making of the ceremonial bows is the preserve of a local family.

Ceremonial Usage: On Thiruvonam day, the birthday of Lord Maha Vishnu, large number of devotees visit the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India to take part in the onavillu charthal, the dedication ceremony of the colourful bows. The temple is one of the 108 sacred temples dedicated to Lord Mahavishnu.

The bows are first offered to the family deity at the Vilayil Veedu, Karamana for three days. They are then taken to Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple on Thiru Onam day and displayed at the Natakasala before being offered to the deity.

The Anantha Sayanam version of the villu is consecrated to Lord Padmanabha [Vishnu]; the one with the Dasavathram painting is offered to Lord Narasimha; the one showing the Krishna-leela is dedicated to Lord Krishna; the one with the painting of Shri Rama Pattabhishekam is consecrated to the idol of Shri Rama. The onavillu are removed on the third day. The Temple Trust distributes the onavillu to devotees, who consider them a symbol of prosperity.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: YouTube Video / Onavillu Family In Malappuram

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