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date: 05 December 2019


  • Claire Lacombe


End-blown flute of Ethiopia. It is made of a kind of bamboo (schembeko) in various lengths and pitches and typically has four to six equidistant fingerholes, sometimes with any unused ones covered with adhesive paper. The blowing edge is sanded straight rather than notched, and the flute is held obliquely. It is played exclusively by males, often to improvise luxuriant ornamentations on folk melodies. Traditionally, the washint has a pentatonic anhemitonic scale (tizita) and is played by shepherds in the Amhara and Tigray regions, who alternately improvise tunes on the flute and sing melodically-related melismatic songs (zefen) about personal memories and family history. The use, tuning and repertory of the washint were modified during the 1960s when it was brought to Addis Abeba and entered the orchestra of the National Theatre. Since that time, to be able to play the four traditional pentatonic anhemitonic scales of northern and central Ethiopia (as chordophones do), a ...

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