Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lyres > Bowl.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Description: The rababa [or “tum” in neighbouring Sudan] is a bowl lyre with five or occasionally six strings of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The instrument is also known as a [rababah] in Congo DRC and [rapapa].
The rababa is played by the Bari people who live in both Congo DRC and Sudan. The same instrument is called “tum” by the Bari who live in neighbouring Sudan. This supports the belief the rababa, tum and tanbura are one and the same instrument. At Omdurman [Sudan] the six-string rababa lyre turns out, what is to be called “tambura worship”.
The rababa is used in songs that sing praise the cattle among the pastoral people like the Beni Amer of Sudan or Eritrea. It is linked with the five-stringed goala lyre of the Hamar people in South Ethiopia. It is also played for secular repertoire, including entertainment and serenades.
Construction: The rababa is akin to the tambura in its construction. Although it is much smaller in size. It has a hemispherical sound box, that is covered with cow or antelope hide or in Congo DRC. lizard skin. Two extended arms are fixed to the hemispherical sound box. The animal hide or skin is applied after.
A cross-bar supports the strings intact and keeping them in tension when tuned. This bowl lyre may have a bridge or without a bridge. And very small sound holes recalling those of the Ethiopian krar but sometimes with eight strings, no bridge and a single sound hole.
Citations: Bibliography: Laurenty, C 121: Wachsmann TCU, 405 ; E. Chantre: Recherches anthropologiques en Egypt Lyons, 1904, 236 ; E. Littman: Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia Leiden, 1910 , 197 ; S. Chauvet: Musique Négre Paris, 1929 ; W. T. Clark: Manners, Customs and Beliefs of the Northern Bega, Sudan Notes and Records, xx/I 1938, 25 ; A. Paul: Notes on the Beni Amer, Sudan Notes and Records, xxxi 1950, 239 ; S. Zendovsky: Zar and tambura as practiced by the women of Omdurman, Sudan Notes and Records, xxx/I 1950, 65 ; Websites: Horniman Museum, London, UK Gallery / Musical Instruments / Lyre / Rababa ;