African music is the music of Africans who live in a large region of 50 nations, each with a special culture, history and language, South of Sahara. Zulu musical instruments are part of this multilingual culture. African music has some distinct characteristics: the use of repetition is one of them. Another important characteristic is the polyphony; this is the combination of different musical parts played simultaneously.
The history is marked by the awesome military strategies of the Zulu King Shaka. The King’s and his warriors’ campaign of expansion is well known in world history. Zulu rich traditional culture includes songs, dances and colorful rituals, Zulu musical instruments are spectacular and original. A variety of Zulu musical instruments are well known, s well as the traditional Mine dance; Zulus have longtime used their music as a cry for freedom.
African music is really rich in modes of expression: drum ensembles are using Zulu musical instruments from the percussion family. Each drummer uses special methods to produce sounds to distinguish his drum from the others. Iron bells are very popular Zulu musical instruments; they are used to produce a repeated sound to help the drummers to play at the correct time.
Zulu musical instruments, rare and very special
The akadinda is a king of xylophone; two groups of African musicians are playing simultaneously. The first group is playing repeatedly the same pattern; the second group plays to fill in the missing sounds. Groups of Zulu musicians play also using flutes, trumpets or xylophones. Each player plays a single note in a strange rotation with the other players. The result is a polyphonic piece, characteristic to African music.
Musical practices of South African people were observed from many years; Zulu musical instruments are obsolete. Venda mbila is an old Zulu musical instrument; it is not used anymore. Reed flutes, contrary, are still very popular. The influence of foreign cultures and civilizations causes many of old Zulu musical instruments to become obsolete.
Musical instruments such as tsonga – a horn, ingungu – a friction drum, nkoka – a drum, pedi – a flute, venda – musical bow and stick, deze and demba – thumb piano and resonatos, umfece – ankle rattles are almost obsolete.
To preserve this awesome heritage of Zulu musical instruments, the necessary information was entered into a database; each Zulu musical instrument was digitally photographed to preserve all information about it.