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Article

J. Richard Haefer

Conch horn of the Aztec or Nahua peoples of central Mexico, and other pre-Contact cultures. It was called puuaqua in Tarascan and paatáotocuècheni or paniçatàopáni in Zapotecan. The Aztecs called this the instrument of the ‘Wind God Quetzalcoatl; he who breathes life into a void’. It was usually played in pairs, and the shell was about 15 to 20 cm long....

Article

Stamping tube of Cuba. Of Yoruba origin, it is used in funerary rites for high-ranking Santería dignitaries to awaken or evoke the spirit of the deceased. It is more than 1 metre long and can have a small carved head at the top, symbol of the Égún or collective spirit of the dead....

Article

John M. Schechter and J. Richard Haefer

An ensemble of gourd (puro) trumpets of various sizes, used in the Chota river valley of Imbabura and Carchi provinces of Ecuador. Formed in the late 19th century by Afro-Ecuadorians without access to Western military band instruments, the ensemble includes several puros (...

Article

John M. Schechter

Mandolin widely used as a folk instrument in Latin America. The instruments of the mestizos and Quechuas in highland Ecuador have a teardrop-shaped body with a flat back and a circular sound hole and are made from cedar, pine, and other woods. They have five triple courses of metal strings and are played with a plectrum. Several tunings are found; in the region of Cotacachi, Imbabura Province, one tuning is ...

Article

Zither shaped like a harp. It was invented in the USA in the 19th century. It was 90 cm tall, had 18 strings, and five to seven buttons with which to change the pitch; on the lower part of the instrument was a drum to give a banjo-like resonance. ‘Banjo Harp’ was also a trade name for a five-string banjo with a wooden soundtable and a resonator back made by the Paramount Banjo Co. (William L. Lange) in the 1920s....

Article

Term for a banjo with four paired strings or a mandolin with a banjo-type head. Such combination types were popular novelties in the USA in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some were patented, for example the Bandonian by William H. DeWick of Brooklyn (...

Article

Banká  

Bell used by the Afro-Cuban Abakwá people. Two pieces of iron are shaped and joined with rivets or by forging or soldering, and a metal handle is attached. The joined edges are flattened so that the bell’s cross-section is somewhat oval and about 10 cm wide. Hitting it in different places produces different tones; the striker is commonly a hardwood stick....

Article

Batá  

Malena Kuss

Set of three Afro-Cuban double-headed hourglass drums of Yoruba origin. Batá are the sacred instruments of the religious system of Ocha/Ifá (Santería). The largest and lowest-pitched drum, which carries the main oratorical role, is called iyá (‘mother’) because other drums are born from the sacred presence within it. The smallest and highest-pitched ...

Article

Term used by the Navajo people of the southwestern USA for a whistle.

Article

David P. McAllester

Rattle consisting of small pieces of flint of ritually prescribed shapes and colours used by the Navajo people of the southwestern USA to accompany songs in the Flintway ceremony. The flints are cupped in both hands and shaken to produce a jingling sound. They symbolize the restoration of fractured or dislocated bones as well as the renewal of vitality in general....

Article

Bembé  

Malena Kuss

Cuban drums of African ancestry. The term refers to a set of three drums of different sizes and registers, as well as dancing to these drums and to the celebration in which they participate. There are six types of bembé drums: (1) single-headed cylindrical, barrel-shaped, or conical open wooden body, with nailed head; (2) double-headed cylindrical or barrel-shaped body with heads fastened by rope in W pattern and reinforced by transverse netting; (3) double-headed cylindrical body with nailed heads; (4) single-headed cylindrical, barrel-shaped, or conical drum, with the head held by a hoop and stretched by rope fastened to perpendicular wedges on the upper half of the body; (5) single-headed cylindrical, barrel-shaped, or conical body, with the head fastened by a system of hoops and stretched by metal tension keys; (6) single-headed cylindrical or conical body, with the head held by rope and stretched by straps fastening it to a girdle held in place by wedges on the upper part of the body....

Article

Bocina  

John M. Schechter and J. Richard Haefer

Generic term for a horn in Latin America, specifically a natural horn of the mestizos and more especially the Quechua people of the highland Ecuadorian provinces of Imbabura, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, Cañar, and Azuayi. Each highland zone possesses its own type. The long (2 metres or more) and straight bamboo end-blown instrument is called ...

Article

Bocú  

Malena Kuss

Single-headed drum of Cuba. It is tall, relatively thin, and open at the base. One of the oldest drums from eastern Cuba, it is a creole instrument blending elements of African and European ancestry and shares musical functions with the tumbadora. There are three types of ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Largest, lead drum in a set of hand-beaten drums and other percussion used in Afro-Cuban Akubua dance music. The drum set can also include the binkome or biankome (highest drum), eroapa (high drum), kuchiyerema or kotchierima (medium-size drum), and obiapa or opiapa (low drum; the lead drum in the Abakua three-member ...

Article

Botija  

Vessel flute of Cuba. It is a reused clay jug with a hole in its side, across which the player blows. Some botijas have a mouthpiece fitted to the hole. Also called botijuela (diminutive) and bunga (a term of Bantu origin), the botija originally contained oil from Spain. Sizes vary, but an early example (at ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Percussion idiophone widely known in the Americas. Examples include the kalukhaq of the Alaskan Inuit and Native Americans of the northwest coast of North America, the cajón of Cuba and Peru, and the Mexican cajón de tapeo, which supposedly developed as a substitute for the ...

Article

Bulá  

Single-headed log drum of Haitians in Cuba. It is played, for instance, in the tumba francesa ensemble (tumba is a generic term for ‘drum’), a set of three cylindrical drums with heads of goatskin, struck by the hands. The head is attached to a hoop that is laced in a V-pattern to pegs inserted lower in the hardwood body; the pegs are hammered to tune the head. The body is often colourfully painted and carved with geometric and symbolic designs, and it stands upright on the ground or occasionally is laid sideways and straddled. The drums are named after their functions in the ensemble; the largest, lead drum is called ...

Article

Musical bow of Cuba. Probably derived from the Angolan mbulumbumba, it is made from cane or wood about 75 cm to 1 m long with a single vegetal or gut (nowadays sometimes metal) string braced to the bow slightly below the midpoint. An open half-gourd resonator 15–20 cm in diameter is tied to the outer curve of the bow opposite the brace. The gourd opening is moved towards and away from the player’s stomach to vary the timbre as he plucks the string with one finger. The ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Vessel rattle of the Flathead Indians of Montana, USA. It is made by cutting a piece of hide and sewing it into a spherical shape, 7 to 12 cm in diameter, with an extension about 10 cm long to wrap around a wooden handle. The hide is wetted and filled with wet sand, then moulded into shape and allowed to dry, and the sand emptied. Small pebbles are inserted as rattle elements, and the handle is secured to the base of the body. Normally the rattle is not decorated either with feathers or paint. When used for the ‘begging around camp’ ceremony it is called ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Rattle of the Aztec (Nahua) people of pre-Contact Mexico. It was a three-legged clay vase with clay pellets inside the hollow legs. The name also refers to other clay vessels containing seeds, stones, or other pellets. According to Molina (Vocabulario en lengua mexicana, 1571...