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date: 13 November 2019


  • Peter Cooke


Large pentatonic log xylophone formerly played in the royal compound of the kabaka (King) of Buganda, central Uganda. Like other xylophones in Uganda the bars were preferably carved from logs of the lusambya tree (markhamia platycalyx). Their number varies between 17 and 22 and they are laid across freshly felled banana trunks and held in place by tall sticks pushed into the trunks between the bars. The bars are sounded at both ends with heavy beaters but are held longitudinally in place by a pair of shoulders carved out of the underside of each bar which trap the bars between the trunks yet allow free vibration.

Wachsmann reported that in 1950 only three instruments existed, one at the palace, one in the Uganda museum, and a third at Kidinda village, Butambala county, where the instrument was made and practised by members of the elephant clan formerly charged with the duty of providing musicians. Though he also remarked that ‘in old times’ the instrument had 22 bars (spanning four octaves) the instrument at the palace then had 17 bars, and a 17-bar instrument was in use at the palace until ...

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