Angola’s music defines the nation, enshrining the fibre of its culture, its aspirations and its dreams. That unique music is generated from its own unique instruments.
In fact, Angolan musical instruments are a rare collection of odd and not-so-odd gadgets, simply crafted with the wisdom of sound, African sound, playing notes and rhythms that strike a chord in the roots of the soul.
Each instrument assumes a specific role for which it was crafted and is represented in almost all Angolan traditional events, ancient and modern from storytelling, folklore, music and dance to meetings and special gatherings, even healing rituals and in battle, as an instrument to communicate with soldiers or the enemy.
One of the most important Angolan instruments is the Marimba (as pictured above), a kind of xylophone made from wood with different sizes of gourds attached, which produce a highly recognisable sound for all Angolans. They can be played by two or three people using wood sticks similar to the familiar drumstick.
Kissanje (or Mbira), Chisanji and Likembe, depending on the region and its native language), one of the oldest which because of its portable size is commonly carried during long trips “to keep away the solitude and warm the heart with familiar sounds”. This instrument is made usually by fixing metal blades in a plank of wood, and is played using the thumbs.
Other types of drum are the Phwitas, to be found along the coastline of Angola, used centuries ago for signalling in battle. This type of drum was also used to send messages between tribes, due to the penetrating and loud sound it makes.
(From Sonangol Universo Magazine Autumn 2007)