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Alastair Dick

Drone spike lute of Sindh, Pakistan. Its name means literally ‘monochord’, like the South Asian ektār, of which it is the Sindi equivalent, although it generally has two strings. A round-section wooden neck, terminating in a lathe-turned bobbin at each end, passes through two-thirds of a skin-covered gourd. The metal strings pass from two frontal pegs at the upper end over a clay or metal bridge in the middle of the skin soundtable and are affixed to the lower end of the neck. The yaktāro is held over one shoulder and plucked by the forefinger, the player often holding in his other hand the ḍaṇḍo (stick rattle) or capṙun (clappers) to accompany his own singing of kāfi or kalām Sufi songs; an accompaniment is often also provided by a clay pot (the dilo or the ghaghar). As well as a drone the yaktāro provides rhythmic backing in various tār...



Alastair Dick


Name of the arched harp in old Tamil literature of South India. In the Cilappatikāram (?2nd century ce) and other texts it is described as having a resonator (pattar: ‘wooden trough’); a skin-covered, curved neck (kōṭu: ‘horn’) to which the strings (narampu: ‘gut’) are attached at one end by leather tuning-cords (tivavu); and, probably, a string-bar (tantirikaram) in the resonator to which the strings are attached at the other end (possibly called oṟṟuṟupu). It has been said to have had a tuning-bar (māṭakam), an oblong piece of wood lying on the resonator, with holes through which the strings passed, and pins (āṇi) to hold them tight. Reference is made to yāḻ with 7, 14, 19, and 21 strings, in different tunings. The harp was covered with a colourful cloth and used to accompany song and in the dance orchestra, where it followed the ...


Henry Johnson

Type of long-neck Japanese lute. The instrument is named after Yanagawa Kengyō (d 1680), a blind male professional musician who influenced much shamisen music of his time. The instrument is thought to be very similar to the one used early in the shamisen’s existence in Japan, in the latter half of the 16th century. Its distinctive features include its particularly thin neck (hosozao, about 2.4 cm wide), a large curve just before the neck enters the soundbox (although some other types of shamisen also have this curve in contrast to the jiuta shamisen), a very slender ivory plectrum with a narrow spatula-shaped end, and a small piece of brocade on the top of the soundbox upon which players rest the right arm whilst playing (in contrast to a cover on other shamisen that fits over the entire top part of the box). The instrument is used especially in the Yanagawa-ryū ...



Han Mei

Bowed half-tube zither of China (ya: ‘creak’; zheng: ‘zither’). The instrument is mentioned in the Jiu Tangshu (‘Old History of the Tang Dynasty’, completed 945 ce) with the comment, ‘The yazheng is made to creak with a slip of bamboo, moistened at its tip’. An early illustration of the yazheng appears in Chen Yang’s Yueshu (‘Treatise on Music’) of 1104, showing a long zither with a slightly convex soundboard (closely resembling a zheng), approximately nine strings, and an L-shaped playing implement. Yazheng was also referred to as qin (a different character from the seven-string scholar’s zither) from the Song to the Ming dynasties. The 13th-century encyclopedia Shilin guangji (‘Comprehensive Record of the Forest of Affairs’) states that the instrument had seven strings, each with a movable bridge underneath. Da Qing huidian tu (‘Illustrations for the Compendium of Administrative Laws of Qing’, 1899) describes the yazheng as having ten strings played with a straight wooden stick....



Jeremy Montagu



Alan R. Thrasher

End-blown flute of the Han Chinese, used in court rituals. Pictographs from the late Shang dynasty (c12th century bce) show what appears to be a small panpipe-type instrument, with bamboo pipes in a single raft bound together in the middle with fibre or cord. While disagreement exists as to whether this image represents a panpipe or two or more end-blown flutes bound together, the pictograph was ultimately equated with the character yue commonly interpreted as a panpipe. Yet, the about 3rd-century bce Zhouli text indicates that the yue is a single end-blown flute with three fingerholes; the name might simply have been transferred to an instrument of this type. The yue retained this end-blown form into the 12th century ce, when it was included in a large imperial gift to Korea. As employed nowadays in government-sponsored Confucian rituals (notably in Taiwan), the yue has become an unplayed ritual flute, a lacquered bamboo tube without notch or fingerholes, carried by young male dancers....



Alice L. Satomi

[zambumba, bumbol]

Snare drum of El Salvador and Brazil. It is a double-headed cylindrical drum with a wooden body 20 to 30 cm deep and 40 to 56 cm in diameter. Zabumba is also called bumbo, bombo, bumba, caixa grande, tambor grande, or Zé-Pereira, preserving some Portuguese names. It is also known as zambê in Rio Grande do Norte and alfaia or bombo in the Pernambucan maracatu dance.

Traditionally, zabumba players also make the drums. The goatskin (or other animal skin) heads are attached by a system of hoop and cords. Squeezing or loosening the cords raises or lowers the pitch. The head can also be heated by the sun or fire to stretch and tune it.

The commercial zabumba, called bumbo zabumba, used in brass and military bands, has a stainless steel or zinc body, heads made of acrylic or nylon, and rim held in place by butterfly or Allen bolts. It is 15 cm deep and 16 to 22 cm in diameter. It hangs vertically in front of the player’s chest from a shoulder strap (...


Sally Sanford

A form of foot percussion involving rapid stamping and tapping of the heels and toes (shod in a flamenco shoe) in a rhythmic fashion associated with flamenco. The feet are relaxed and most of the work is done by the lower leg, which initiates the movement with a backswing of the foot by bending the knee almost 90° off the floor before dropping the foot down adjacent to the instep of the standing foot. Digs and stamps allow the dancer forward and lateral movement. Digs are executed with a backswing of the foot landing on the ball of the foot slightly behind the standing foot. The stamp (golpe) also begins with a backswing, landing with forward movement as the heel strikes the floor. Modern flamenco shoes (zapatos for women and botas for men) have thick soles and small tacks on both the toe and heel. The heel of the shoe is elevated. Female dancers face the added challenge of executing rapid footwork while wearing a heavy dress with a long train (...


J. Richard Haefer

Marimba of Central America. Popular in both mestizo and indigenous cultures since the 19th century, it is found from southern Mexico south through Nicaragua and is a predecessor of the modern Mexican-Guatemalan marimba. It is distinguished from the modern marimba by its small size (rarely more than three octaves) and the use of gourds as resonators for the bars (...


Inna D. Nazina


Generic term for folk clarinets or hornpipes found throughout Belarus and Russia under several specific names (e.g. pishchik, charotka, and dudka). Each name reflects certain essential characteristics of the instrument—acoustical, structural, functional, etc. The word zhaleyka is derived from Slavonic zhal (‘sad, sorrowful, mournful’), also the root of zhalnik (‘a grave’). Inhabitants of northern Belarus remember that the zhaleyka could be heard during burial ceremonies in the 1930s. The term golos (‘voice’) as applied to Belarusian instruments is related to the belief that some instruments arose from trees growing on the graves of murdered children. The soul and voice of the child were thought to move first into a sacred tree, then into the instruments made from its wood. Thus, an instrument with an extraordinary and distinctive voice is an integral feature of ancient Belarusian burial rituals. The types of zhaleyka differ in shape, size (typically 10 to 36 cm long), material (e.g. wood, straw, goose quill, reed, horn), construction, and the presence or absence of fingerholes (normally four to 12) and a bell (often of birch bark, horn, or wood). Generally it has an idioglot reed and a loud, shrill sound with a distinct nasal undertone. Typically it plays a diatonic scale spanning a 6th or 7th beginning from ...



Alan R. Thrasher

(‘sitting chime’) [qing]

Bowl-shaped resting bell of the Han Chinese. The bell is hammered out of bronze and constructed in various sizes, medium-sized instruments ranging from 10 to 15 cm in diameter. The zuoqing rests on a cushion and is struck at the rim with a padded beater. A 9th-century Buddhist bell (24 cm in diameter, 19 cm deep) found in a Tang dynasty site is one of earliest of this type reported. The scholar Chen Yang, in his treatise Yueshu (c1100), called this type a bronze bowl (tongbo) but the name zuoqing (or qing) is now most common. Used in Buddhist temples, the bell is usually paired with a muyu (‘wooden fish’) of a similar size, and struck to punctuate the chanting of monks and nuns.

Liu Dongsheng and others, eds.: Zhongguo yueqi tujian [Pictorial Guide to Chinese Instruments] (Ji’nan, 1992), 85 only.

See also...



Valdis Muktupāvels

[govju zvans, pulkstens]

Cast and forged metal bells of Latvia. Small cast bronze bells are known from the 7th century, found by archaeologists attached to shawls, belts, and other parts of female costume, usually grouped in threes. The diameter of the opening is 15 to 30 mm, and the clapper in a form of a lamella is attached inside. Cast church bells are known in Latvia from the 12th century. The bell was hung in a church tower or a separate bell tower and rung for ecclesiastic rites, for special events such as weddings and funerals, and also to sound alarms. The church bells were thought to offer protection from evil influences.

Forged bells, govju zvans, were made of thin folded brass plates, with riveted edges. A wire with an iron weight—screw-nuts or similar—was fastened inside. Such bells were hung around the necks of farm animals while grazing, especially at night.

Ī. Priedīte...



Ivan Mačak

Bells of Slovakia. There are many forms: zvonce drevené (wooden bells), zvonce liate (cast metal bells), plechové zvonce or spiežovce (bells of folded sheet metal), and zvonce hlinené (ceramic bells). Herders hang differently tuned bells on their animals so that in rough terrain they can locate them and know which animals are in front, behind, or in the middle of the group. Herders also pay attention to the harmony of the bells and sometimes say that they are ‘making a symphony.’...