Ngoni (instrument)

Ngoni (instrument)
Bassekou Kouyate performing on a 'jeli' (griot) ngoni

The ngoni or "n'goni" is a string instrument originating in West Africa. Its body is made of wood or calabash with dried animal (often goat) skin stretched over it like a drum. In the hands of a skilled ngoni instrumentalist, the ngoni can produce fast rapid melodies. It appears to be closely related to the akonting and the xalam and this instrument family is believed to be the ancestor of the American banjo.[citation needed] This ngoni is called a jeli ngoni, played by griots to perform at celebrations and other special occasions to play the traditional songs (fasa's in manding-language).

Another type of ngoni is believed to have originated among the donso, a hunter and storyteller caste of the Wasulu people. The larger donso ngoni is still largely reserved for ceremonial purposes while the smaller kamale ngoni has entered popular musical styles such as Wassoulou music.


Donso Ngoni

The donso ngoni, or "hunter's harp", is larger and older than the more popular kamale ngoni. It has six strings and a deep sound. Used for ceremonial purposes, it is often accompanied by singing and the karagnan, a serrated metal tube that is scraped with a metal stick.

Kamale Ngoni

The kamale ngoni or "young man's harp" was invented by the musician, Alata Brulaye in the 1960s. It is smaller, tuned a fourth higher than the traditional ngoni, often made of calabash rather than wood, and has eight, ten or twelve strings. It became popular in the Wassoulou region and contributed to the rise of Wassoulou music in the 1980s and 90s.[1]

Notable players

See also


  1. ^ Eyre, Banning (2003). "The Music of Mali Today" in "Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali" [CD Booklet]. Washington DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. 

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