Viewer's Guide

2007 Musical Instruments



The berimbau
, a vital aspect of the art of capoeira, is called "the leader" because it's rhythm controls the tempo, mood and energy of the games the capoeiristas play. It evolved from a one-stringed instrument brought to Brazil from Angola in the 19th century. At the foot of the berimbau the players offer their respect and begin the game of capoeira. The Verga is the bracing stick, usually four or five feet long. The Arame is the wire strung to both ends of the verga to form the bow-like shape of the berimbau. The Baqueta is the wooden stick that is used to strike the arame and create the sound of the berimbau. The Moeda/Dobrão is the coin or rock placed against the arame to create different tones in the music. The Cabaca is the hollowed out gourd used as a resonation chamber similar to the guitar's body. The Caxixi is a small basket of seeds held in the same hand as the baqueta.
Agogo bells
The agogo bells are similar to cowbells, they are small high- pitched bells which traditionally come in handheld pairs, but modern versions often come as a set of three and/or ready for being mounted on a stand. They are usually tuned a small interval apart such as a second or minor third. Agogo bells are particularly used in Brazil, and can be used to play more elaborate rhythms than the hand cowbell.
Clogging and Tap


The violin is a wooden instrument played with a bow, having four strings tuned at intervals of a fifth, an unfretted fingerboard, and capable of great flexibility in range, tone, and dynamics. The violin is considered a chordophone since it is an instrument that produces sounds from the vibrations of strings.

The guitar is a descendant of various Middle Eastern instruments including "el 'ud" - the lute - and "tar", a long-necked lute of Persia. ("tar" means "string"). Today's acoustic guitar has six steel or nylon strings stretched across a fret board and a hollow wooden body. (Mexican style guitars traditionally use nylon strings.)
The banjo's origins are from West Africa, a distant lute family cousin of the kora. Originally, the African forerunner of the banjo was made from a gourd, with a goatskin stretched across an opening. With a fingerboard neck attached to the gourd and as few as two strings, you have a banjo in its original state. Construction of the banjo changed over time in the Southern U.S.- using wood and/or metal to create the body frame, replacing the gourd. Steel strings, and fiberglass heads instead of skin, a very recent development, have altered the sound and function of the banjo. Currently the four-string banjo is sometimes played with Irish music and with Dixieland bands. The open backed five-string banjo is typically played with old-time country music, in the claw hammer style, strumming down on the strings. Bluegrass banjos (also with five strings) are "picked" with metal fingerpicks, and have a resonator on the back of the instrument, giving it a brassier, louder sound. The fifth string (located half way up the neck) is tuned an octave higher and strummed with the thumb to provide a backbeat to the melody.


Many scholarly and anecdotal accounts consider the ancestral source of the sarod to be the rebab, a similar lute-type instrument originating in Afghanistan and Kashmir. However, there are speculations that a predecessor to the sarod might have existed almost two thousand years ago in ancient India. Instruments which resemble the sarod are found in carvings of the 1st century in the Champa temple, as well as in paintings in the ancient Ajanta Caves.

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Ghungroo (ghunguru) are the brass bells that kathak dancers wear wrapped around the ankles. Dancers typically wear between 101 and 151 bells. The bells have iron balls inside which add quite a lot of weight, and make it necessary for the dancers to develop leg and body strength with intense training. Kathak dancers can make many different sounds with the ghungroo, making possible various intricacies of rhythm.

The bells "ground" the dancer upon the floor and earth, and act as an extension of the dancer as a musician, and as an expression of the soul. After a dancer receives ghungroo from their teacher or "guru," the bells must be treated with care and respect. Before dancers put their bells on to dance, they hold them to the forehead, mouth and over the heart, unifying mind, body and soul.
ankle bells
Tablas are the classical drums of North India. A set includes two drums, one for each hand. The bayan is the larger, lower-pitched of the two; the tabla is smaller and higher-pitched. The black dot in the center of each drum head is a gob of iron and wheat flour that allows the drum to be tuned. The small drum is tuned to an exact pitch to match the music being played. The larger drum's head is looser than the tabla's, and the tabla player leans her hand into the head to raise the pitch in the middle of a note, creating the characteristic "doo-WUMP" sound unique to the tablas.

Gankogui is a vibrating iron bell hand forged in a distinct traditional shape by blacksmiths. Popularly referred to as gakpevi (ga - forged iron + kpe - carrying + vi - child) "the forged iron carrying a child," the structure of gankogui consists of a larger low pitch forged iron and a smaller high pitch one permanently stacked together. The larger forged iron bell is considered as the parent and smaller high pitch one is considered the child in the protective bosom of the parent. Gankogui is the foundation of the entire ensemble. Its voice provides the metronomic background around which most Anlo-Ewe music is structured. A performer is often described as blind if he or she lacks a good sense of the guiding patterns of gankogui.
Romani dance forms

Accordion accordion is a portable instrument based on free reeds activated by a keyboard and a set of bellows. The concertina and the accordion were both invented in 1829, one in England and one in Vienna, Austria. The accordion was brought to the U.S. in the mid-1830's, and was called the French Accordion because of its great popularity in France at the time. The German accordion was mass-produced by German manufacturers after the 1850's, and enjoyed widespread popularity in America. The Button and Piano Accordions became popular after World War I. The Piano accordion is often associated with polka music in the U.S., and in France the Button accordion is the king of musette music. Versions of the accordion are used in cajun music, in Eastern European music, in Argentine tango, and in many other types of music worldwide. 1

accordion 2
The balalaika is a Russian folk guitar with a triangular body shape. The back of the balalaika is slightly bowed. The balalaika has six strings, in three pairs of two. It has a small wooden body, giving it a resonant but small tone. It is usually strummed quickly as an accompaniment to other instruments.