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date: 08 December 2019


  • K.A. Gourlay


Popular single-string spike fiddle of Uganda. It was created in 1906–7 by Eriya Kafero of Mityana, a young musician, who might have obtained the idea by combining the local sekitulege (ground harp) with the bowed Rabāb of Arab travellers from the east coast. The instrument has a tubular wooden body, usually cylindrical but sometimes barrel-shaped and sometimes with a swelling part-way down. A skin is pegged over one end, and a neck, a straight stick, passes diametrically through the body about 1 or 2 cm below the skin. The string, usually of sisal or sometimes gut, is fastened to a protruding knob of the spike at the base and passes over the skin. It makes contact with it both where there is a slight bulge in the skin itself, just above the bottom edge of the skin to act as a nut, and by means of a small piece of pith inserted as a bridge, and is wound around a frontal tuning-peg in the neck. Some instruments are decorated with a tassel of black goat hair at the top of the neck. The bow, which is shallow and approximately 20 cm long, is made from a twig with strands of sisal passed from end to end and secured by grooves. The instrument is placed at waist level against the left side of the body, with the neck pointing away from the player. The neck rests in the palm of the left hand between thumb and forefinger. The sides of the fingers stop the string (not against the neck). The bow is held between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and rubs the string at a point about 2 cm above the soundbox. The fiddle is made in three sizes; it is often associated in performance with the bowl lyre....

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