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Balafon (Photo by Alissa Roedig).
Chordophones are used both as a melodic and an accompanying instrument. The
musical bow often appears with a resonator attached either in the middle or at the
end of the bow; the mouth is often used as a resonator as well. The multiple bow
lute, an instrument related to the musical bow, is a five- to eight-bowed instrument
(each bow having a single string) found in Central Africa; the bows are attached to
a resonator at one end. Zithers in stick, board, raft, trough, and frame form (e.g.,
the six-stringed triangular-frame zither of the Bassa of Liberia and the inanga or
trough zither of Ruanda) are found in various areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. Harps and
lyres (after Egyptian models) are rarely found south of the equator, and one-stringed
fiddles found in many regions are often based on Arabian models.
African idiophones are found throughout Sub-Sahara Africa, and the kalimbas or
thumb pianos are a popular brand of these indigenous instruments. The sanza (Central
Africa, Mozambique, etc.) mbira (Southeast Africa), kembe (Central Africa), and limba
(East Central and Southeast Africa) are other variations of thumb pianos found in the
region. These instruments are small plucked idiophones consisting of flexible iron or
bamboo tongues fixed across a board or box. Additionally, a calabash resonator may be
attached to or may house the board. The thumbs (and occasionally the index fingers)
are used to pluck the instrument, producing a delicate pizzicato sound.
The mbira is a unique Africa musical invention. Zimbabwe’s musicians are among
Africa’s finest mbira players. Complex polyphonic melodies and polyrhythms frame
44 • Bigotry and the Afrocentric “Jazz” Evolution