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Article

Victoria Lindsay Levine

End-blown duct flute of the Choctaw people of Mississippi, USA. Made by medicine men from a local river cane, the flutes are about 30 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter, with two fingerholes near the distal end. An opening in the tube about one quarter of the length below the proximal end is partially filled with pine pitch to direct the airflow against the lower lip of the opening. Some flutes are decorated with a medicine man’s personal mark or other symbols, such as a snake design, burnt onto the flute’s upper side; the proximal end is often wrapped with leather. It is played by medicine men before and during stickball games to conjure for their teams. Formerly, Chickasaw medicine men played similar instruments and the Delaware used them at the start of communal dance songs to encourage the dancers. Each tribe has its own word for cane flutes....

Article

Ivan Mačak

Hunting lures (decoy calls) of Slovakia. Formerly they were made by the hunters themselves but in recent decades hunters have replaced traditional lures with mass-produced ones, except for deer calls made from horn. The oldest known Slovak example dates from the 14th century. Vábničky produce or modify sound by various means; some are flutes or whistles, others are ribbon reeds, and so on. Many are used to extend the hunter’s mouth cavity and so have very thin walls in the part near the player’s mouth so as to increase its resonance. Most survive nowadays as toys imitating bird songs and other natural sounds....

Article

Alastair Dick

Ancient Indian, Vedic Sanskrit, term, usually translated as instrumental music of harps or flutes. Sachs (1940) identified it as a flute, perhaps following the Sanskritist Zimmer and relying on a connection with storm gods and thus with wind. A passage in the Ṛgveda (i,85,10) refers to blowing the vāṇá, but others imply the translation ‘voice’ or (metaphorically) ‘song’. In later Vedic texts vāṇá is also referred to as ...

Article

Arvydas Karaška

(pl. varpeliai; diminutive of varpas)

Small clapper bell of Lithuania. It can be pear-shaped, conical, or cylindrical, and is usually made of metal, although bells of clay are also known. Archaeological finds confirm that from the 11th century such metal bells were attached to horse harnesses, sometimes with jingles. Into the 20th century metal varpeliai were hung on the necks of grazing farm animals. After both World Wars bells were often made from empty artillery shells. The varpelis was used in various rituals at Christmas and during Lent, at weddings, funerals, and so on. Until the mid-20th century potters used a clay bell in market places to attract customers. Small ...

Article

Vejiga  

J. Richard Haefer

(Sp.: ‘bladder’)

Inflated animal bladder used as a percussion instrument in Panama and Puerto Rico. The bladder, usually that of a pig or cow, about 20 to 30 cm in diameter, is struck with a stick to provide rhythmic accompaniment to the music and movements of the ‘little devil’ street dancers. It may be worn as part of a dancer’s costume. In the gran diablos (’big devils’) ceremony the sound of the instrument symbolically mimics the fight between good and evil.

In Loiza, Puerto Rico, at the Fiestas de Santiago Apostol (‘St James festival’), a popular street character is called the Vejigante, named for the vejiga made from an inflated cow’s bladder that he carries. He represents the Moors in the battle between good and evil. While the primary purpose of the bladder is as a rhythmic instrument, the character will sometimes chase children and hit them with it to knock off evil spirits....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Five-stringed small guitar of Mexico. Commonly known as the vihuela, it is played in the mariachi ensemble as a harmony and rhythm instrument, and should not be confused with the Spanish vihuela de mano. It has a loud, crisp, rapid-decay sound. The soundbox is typically 39 cm long with a 29 cm maximum width, a 28 cm neck with four to six movable nylon frets, and 50 cm string length. The maximum depth of the sides is 10.5 cm plus an additional 6 cm depth to the apex of the vaulted, angled back. Wooden pegs inserted from the rear of the pegboard are traditional but nowadays most vihuelas have mechanical tuners. The tuning is a-d′-g′-b-e′ but sometimes the lowest three strings are tuned an octave higher. The soundhole (boca) is surrounded by nácar (mother of pearl) and wood inlay in a starburst pattern, and the purfling has intricate ...

Article

Villu  

Alastair Dick

[vil, villukottu, onaviṭṭu]

Struck musical bow (villu: ‘bow’) of Kerala, south India. The bow itself is a spathe of palm leaf, about 82 cm long, and the string a strip of thin bamboo, affixed into slots at either end of the bow by terminal knobs. It has been classified wrongly as an idiophone because of its wood-like string, but this would have no tension or pitch unless stretched. It is held vertically on the right upper chest and shoulder by the left hand, with the string facing forward; the string is beaten with a light bamboo stick held in the right hand. The villu provides a purely rhythmic accompaniment in villinmel and thayambaka and in the harvest festival songs (onapaṭṭu), with which it is closely associated. Alternative names are onavillu (‘harvest festival bow’) and villukoṭṭu (‘bow percussion’).

P. Sambamoorthy: Catalogue of Musical Instruments Exhibited in the Government Museum, Madras (Madras, 3/1962)...

Article

Vizugo  

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

End-blown flute of the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indians of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. It consists of two internode sections of wa:pk (‘river cane’, Phragmites communis) and about 4 cm of each adjoining section for a total length of 48 to 55 cm and 2.5 to 4 cm diameter. The two end nodes are perforated, but the centre node is left intact and is bridged by a rectangular hole cut in the side of the instrument and covered with a piece of cloth or leather. Three fingerholes are cut in the lower portion of the flute. The index finger of the left hand is placed over the cloth or leather to help direct the air over the internal partition, thus creating a flue for the passage of air, and allowing for minor adjustments in the airstream. The fingerholes are controlled by the right hand.

One does not ‘play’ the flute but rather ‘sings’ it. Although the cane flute may have been used as a courting instrument and in the ...

Article

Waji  

Alastair Dick

[wuj]

Chordophone of Nuristan (formerly Kafiristan), eastern Afghanistan. It is played by people of Dardic heritage and language but there is no record of its being used by the Dards on the Pakistan side of the border. It consists of a string holder (a relatively thick, bow-shaped piece of wood) and a boat-shaped wooden resonator, pointed at both ends but flat-bottomed and waisted, which is covered with a skin laced by thick thongs. The skin might be pierced with several soundholes. The string holder passes through two holes in the centre of the skin and projects upwards on either side; it appears to be supported by the skin alone, but in some cases is braced by double cords that pass around the ends of the resonator and the bow and are wound tight by wooden pins tucked into the holes. There are two main shapes, sizes, and tunings. On the smaller model, roughly one-third of the almost semicircular bow projects upwards to the front of the instrument and two-thirds to the rear. There are four strings that pass through holes near the lower front end of the bow (here somewhat flattened) and are held by knotting; at the other end they pass over small knobs to thick tuning loops or cords hung with long tassels and wound around the bow. One four-string model has been said to be tuned to a Phrygian tetrachord: ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Duct flute of Bolivia. It is made of cane about 45 to 50 cm long and 2.5 cm in diameter, with two fingerholes and one thumbhole, and a square opening at the duct. Overblowing produces multiple harmonics. It is held by and played in the left hand and may be used together with a ...

Article

John Okell

[walet-chaùng]

Clapper of Myanmar. It is made from a piece of bamboo approximately 90 to 120 cm long, split in half and narrowed down most of its length, leaving a short split section full-width at the top, and another short section whole at the bottom to hold the two halves together and act as a hinge. The player grips the narrowed lengths, one half in each hand, and strikes the top sections together. The ...

Article

Waning  

Andrew C. McGraw

[laba wai, wani, laba]

Drum of Flores, Indonesia. It has a cylindrical wooden body, often closed at the bottom, and one goatskin head affixed by leather straps attached to a counterhoop. The head is tuned by moving wooden pegs placed between the straps and the body of the drum. Two are used in the gong waning ensemble in the central Sikka region: the larger waning inan, about 35 cm in diameter and 60 cm long, played with a bare hand and a stick in the other hand, and the smaller waning anak, about 25 cm in diameter, played with two sticks. The drums lie on the ground, the musicians sitting upon them. The ensemble includes up to five medium-sized, shallow bossed gongs (gong or go) ranging from 35 to 20 cm in diameter and named, from low to high pitch: inan, depun, beit, udon, and anak. Single gongs are held in the left hand and struck with a rubber-padded mallet held in the right, performing rapid interlocking patterns; the gong is dampened against the chest. These patterns are semi-improvised, the higher gongs being allowed more freedom. One or two larger suspended gongs may be added to play slower ostinatos. A bamboo time keeper (...

Article

Wankara  

J. Richard Haefer

[wankarita]

Two-headed log drum of the Bolivian Alti Plano. It is about 50 cm in diameter and about 15 cm deep; the heads, of goat or sheep hide, are laced together in a V pattern. It has a snare (chariera) across the bottom head made from animal intestines to which cactus spines can be attached to amplify the resonance. It is played with a drumstick (baqueta, wajta) about 30 cm long tipped with a 7-cm hide ball. The drum accompanies Quechua ensembles of pinkillos (duct flutes), sikuris (panpipes), lakitas (panpipes), or paceños (end-blown notched flutes). The drums are played in groups of seven in the sikuri ensembles.

The similar pfutu-wankara is a higher-pitched, double-headed log drum about 60 cm deep and 45 cm in diameter. The drum stick is similar to that of the wankara but with a smaller leather ball. Indians and mestizos use these drums in the dance of the ...

Article

Terry E. Miller

Gong chime of Thailand. Seven khawng chai gongs hang vertically, each in its own frame within an octagonally shaped stand. The player sits within this stand. It was devised in the late 19th century for performances of a theatrical drama called duek dam ban but is rarely used nowadays.

See also...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[xaws mewktses]

Scallop-shell rattle of indigenous peoples of the North American northwest coast. The term literally means ‘shellfish rattle’ in the Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw language; xaws mewktses means ‘new rattle’ in Salish. It exists in two forms: (1) A number of scallop shells strung on a long cord, with the concave sides of pairs of shells facing each other; the rattle is shaken by hand; (2) Two pairs of shells tied to cord held in a dancer’s fist. The rattles are said to have come to the Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw from the Coast Salish of Comox and are used in the ...

Article

Xiyaogu  

Alan R. Thrasher

Hourglass-shaped drum of the Han Chinese, historically known as zhanggu (‘stick drum’). Several related drum types were introduced from India or Central Asia into the Chinese courts of the Sui and Tang dynasties (6th to early 10th centuries ce), though according to Chen Yang’s Yueshu (‘Treatise on music’) of 1104, the zhanggu was obtained from Central Asia when Fu Jian (338–85) invaded the state of Kucha. Chen points out that in later times the zhanggu was distinguishable by its playing technique: a stick was used to strike the right head, the open hand playing the left. Their common feature is the South Asian tradition of lacing the two drumheads together, rather than tacking them onto the body. Body contour and striking method, however, differ from one historic type to another.

The xiyaogu (‘narrow waist drum’)—not to be confused with the barrel-shaped yaogu (‘waist drum’) which is merely held at the waist—is a large hourglass-shaped drum (between 60 and 80 cm long), with overwide heads attached to metal hoops (about 40 cm in diameter) extending beyond the body rims and secured by connective lacing. Historically, the body was constructed from either wood or ceramic. It was played by dancer-musicians, and was suspended from the neck with a strap and struck with a stick in one hand and open palm of the other. The ...

Article

Xyu  

[xi-u, pí lè]

Wooden oboe, akin to the Chinese suona, of the Hmong people of northern Vietnam, Laos, northeastern Thailand, and southern China. It has six fingerholes and a thumbhole and is played for instance at receptions of important guests, funerals, and weddings.

L.Ó Briain: Hmong Music in Northern Vietnam: Identity, Tradition and Modernity...

Article

Henry Johnson

[rōko]

Barrel drum of Japan. The name refers to its former context of performance (yagura or : turret/tower). The drum is especially known for its use in sumō (Japanese wrestling), when it announces the event, and from some historical kabuki performances, when the drum was positioned atop a high stage. It is about 60 cm long and 27 cm in diameter. The two heads are affixed to the wooden body by one or two rows of broad-headed nails. The drum can be positioned in several ways, including placing it on a tiny stand at a 45-degree angle in front of the player, who kneels perpendicular to the drum, or on a high stand at a similar angle for a standing player. The higher head is struck by two slender wooden sticks.

M. Yamaguchi: ‘Sumo in the Popular Culture of Contemporary Japan’, The Worlds of Japanese Popular Culture: Gender, Shifting Boundaries and Global Cultures...

Article

Yagwìn  

John Okell