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date: 20 January 2021


  • Anthony King
  • , revised by K. A. Gourlay
  •  and Jeremy Montagu


The most common name for a type of oboe of the savanna zone of West Africa, particularly southern Mali and Niger, northern Nigeria, southern Chad, and the adjoining areas of Cameroon. The Fulani instrument is called algaitaru, while in parts of northeastern Nigeria (e.g. Bauchi and among the Bolewa and Kilba peoples) it is called aligata; the Kanuri use the name alita and the Tiv agida. The instrument is an importation from the Maghrib and has carried with it not only the name ghayia but, in most cases, also the article ‘al’. It consists of a conical wooden body, sometimes made sectionally as a stepped cone, all covered in leather, and a cup-shaped bell which is sometimes also leather-covered and which can be integral with the body or a separate piece, the joint covered by the leather. The body is about 30 cm long, and the bell about 10 cm long. A narrow staple, at least 10 cm long, has a fixed flat, circular pirouette disc, both made of brass or tinplate, and carries a double reed made from stalks of wild grass (...

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