The Spurlock Museum's Online Exploration
Music in Society
Musical Expressions of the Senufo-Tagba
Welcome to the Spurlock MuseumÕs resource pages on the music of the Senufo-Tagba. Here the people of the village of Sokouraba and adjoining villages in the nation state of Burkina Faso invite you to explore the many ways that music fills their lives. Take time to listen and watch as musicians, singers and dancers perform...
...at work, while hoeing in the fields or grinding grain in the village;
...in ceremony, while celebrating weddings and honoring the dead; and
...for entertainment, among social groups and members of the entire village.
In the Village
The Senufo-Tagba people of West Africa live in the southwestern corner of Burkina Faso. The name Tagba refers primarily to the language they speakone of over fifteen distinct dialects which make up Senari, the language of all the Senufo peoples. While each of these dialect groups has individual customs and a sense of independent identity, all consider themselves to be Senambelea loose confederation of peoples who live near each other, hold similar beliefs, and practice farming as a way of life.
The life of the Senufo peoples is a complex mixture of national allegiances, modern and traditional lifeways, and interaction between the everyday and the spirit worlds. One thread holding these complex forces together is the healing, integrating, and empowering presence of music.
As you visit the pages presented here, you will learn how music fills the world of the Senufo-Tagba. Whether enlivening precious free time or accompanying farming and harvesting tasks, the music that the Tagba make is a reflection and an expression of the many ways they value life.
The rhythms and "voices" of musical instruments are at the heart of celebration, ceremony, and ritual. As the Tagba announce the transition from single to married life, acknowledge the passage from life to death, and honor relationships among themselves and their ancestors, songs and the sounds of musical instruments are heard.
For the Tagba, the natural and the supernatural are linked and accessible, especially through music. While not all music is sacred, contact with the spirits and other spiritual rituals are unthinkable without music. Spirits are present when musical instruments are played, and the presence and power of ancestral spirits is one of the most important parts of individual and community life.
In the Senufo-Tagba village, music and the rhythms of musical instruments accompany and ease the strain of work.
Hoeing Competitions, Ton Vala:
Among the Senufo, farming is considered the first and most noble profession. In the fields that surround a Senufo-Tagba village, a wide variety of crops are grown and harvested. Cotton fields supply the main cash crop while smaller plots of grains, legumes, and tubers provide most of the food for the village.
The importance of farming is reflected in ton vala, the name given to a group of young men and girls who work together at farming. Membership in a ton vala is expected of every young person, and all members of a ton vala are from the same age set in their village.
Throughout the growing season, the members of a ton vala in a village gather for hoeing competitions where music plays a prominent role. These events keep the group working at a very high level of productivity as each member of the ton vala strives to out do the others. Hired by local farmers, the ton vala ensures that fields will be hoed in time for planting.
Here the members of a ton vala stand facing the field they will cultivate. Each man holds a hoe with a wide blade loaded with soil. At the signal they will walk in straight lines through the field, making a row with the soil they carry.
After marking rows in the field, the young men in a ton vala draw lots to determine who will be assigned the first row to hoe. This process is carried out quickly until all lots are drawn and every man is busy hoeing.
Young farmers work hard and fast as they compete to be the first man finished. The hoes they use have a much wider and deeper blade than European or American hoes, and are fitted with a short, stout handle. The competitors raise their hoes above their shoulders and bend low to cut deep into the soil. The quality of their work is as important as their speed.
On the day of a ton vala competition, the members of a djegele xylophone ensemble usually gather to play and urge the contestants on. Here three djegele players and three gbogo drum players stand with their instruments hung over their shoulders.
Women of the ton vala provide an important part of the music as they sing and play sichaala and sichaa-gun-go gourd rattles. Whether they join a djegele ensemble in the field, or sing as an independent group, they encourage the spirit of competition through songs of praise for each man's efforts. As the young farmers hoe their way through the fields, the musicians follow.
Throughout the day of competition, the music of the djegele, the rhythms of the sichaala, and the songs of the ton vala women are heard. In a society where men play nearly all the instruments, the sichaala and sichaa-gun-go are two of the few instruments played by women.
Urging every man to work harder, the women sing of the pride the village has in the competitors fathers. Each young farmer is reminded that he must keep his family's good name through hard work and success. "Do not let the good reputation of your family fade away!" is the main message sung by the women in the ton vala.
As the ton vala competition nears an end, young farmers pause to see what work remains. Hoes, polished by the soil, shine in the sun.
As the day of the ton vala hoeing competition progresses, winners of each round of hoeing take their turn in receiving praise. A mask or staff surmounted by a carved bird symbolizes that the winner is high above the othershis achievements are beyond their reachat least, until the next section of the field is cultivated! Here a young farmer wears the winners mask while the women of the ton vala sing his praises.
Lusulo Pounding and grinding:
Women in Senufo-Tagba society are responsible for feeding their husbands and children. They process most of the food by hand, and young girls learn to cook at an early age. The art of cooking is an integral part of womanhood and the best compliment you can give a Tagba woman is to say, "This woman cooks!"
While men are the primary musicians in the village, women integrate music into their daily chores. One of their most arduous tasks is making an oily, sheanut butter for cooking. Here the sheanut kernels have been boiled and spread out in the sun to dry.
Once the hard kernels of the sheanut are dry, they are crushed one-by-one against a stone, roasted and pounded into a coarse paste, and then mashed further by hand at a grinding stone. The pounding is called lusulo, a term that also is used for the sound, or music, of the rhythmic pounding.
Young girls, to whom lusulo typically falls, often sing and clap while pounding the sheanut kernels in a deep sugo made of a hollowed tree trunk. The rhythm of their wooden pounding pole, or dologo, hitting the bottom of the sugo forms a kind of musical beat. Since two or three girls usually work together, a second girl often rocks her dologo back and forth in the sugo, hitting its sides in a new rhythm. As the second girl rocks her dologo, the first throws hers into the air and claps. Thus a third rhythmic layer is added to the music. Occasionally, when three girls work together, their pounding changes from duple to triple beat! Now the girls do not sing very much, but simply enjoy the complex rhythms they create as they work.
In the audio clip featured here, you will hear the sounds of lusulo as a young woman and her companion make music while pounding sheanut kernels.
Traxha - Grinding at a Stone:
The grinding of grains and sheanut kernels that have been crushed with the wooden sugo and dologo is an important task for Tagba women and girls. Grains are kept in grainaries that are raised above the ground, like the one shown here for storing corn. White and yellow corn, millet, and fonio are husked and then ground to make tô, a staple food among the Senufo.
A good tô is made with very finely ground grains which are first pounded with the dologo in a deep, wooden sugo. Here two young women of the village pound millet in a sugo lined with a sturdy, cotton cloth.
The grinding of the millet takes place after pounding and is done by hand with the traxha, a large grinding stone paired with a smaller stone. The large stone serves as a hard dish to hold the grain while the smaller stone is used for grinding the grain into a fine powder.
The work of grinding grain is a difficult and almost daily chore. As they grind, Tagba women ease the tensions of the day by expressing frustrations, complaints, and worries in song. The transformative power of music allows one to say in song what social rules may not allow in normal speech. The traxha becomes a musical instrument as the women match their singing to the physical exertion of grinding and keep rhythmic accompaniment to their songs.
Here two women of the village of Sokouraba work together as they mash crushed sheanut kernels into a thick paste for making sheanut butter. Now they use a long stick of hardwood, shaped something like a rolling pin, as they work at the grinding stone.
Often, when a Senufo woman feels down or under stress, she will find some sheanuts or grain to grind and sing a song to make herself feel better. Some times her song includes proverbs, sayings, and strong messagesreferring indirectly to the person or thing causing her pain. She sings not only to herself but also for all of the women and children around her to hear. Other times the words of her song speak of hopeful themes and better days. Sometimes she sings directly to the ancestral spirits, expressing her personal life history.
Grinding songs are so important to women that in one African village where a power mill was installed, the women continued to grind with the traxha. Their communal time and healing songs were worth the extra work of grinding by hand at one of the village stones.
In the sound clip featured here, a young woman is singing while she grinds grain between two stones. Listen closely and you can hear the rhythm of the traxha which accompanies her song.
Among the Tagba, one of the lessons that everyone learns is that no human being is powerful, wealthy, or fortunate enough to be self-sufficient. We all have limits somewhere and need the other members of society. While grinding and singing, Lotio presents a challenging and timeless question to those around her:
Who among the village specialists knows the were (medicine) against death? No matter how many ailments you can cure, you can never stop kuu (death) from coming. Even for yourself! Show me that were! Show me!
Singing on behalf of the childless women of the village, Lotio reminds the women who have children that all children are a gift from the creator and belong to all women in the village.
Children belong to everyone. You, mothers, never show off! Never make fun of the women who are childless. You know the children you gave birth toyou know their numberthere are many of them! But, do you know which ones will care for you at your burial? Are you sure? Tell me!
Never point to your own children! You are just lucky. They demonstrate the power and will of Kle (the Creator). All women have children! Society has children! They will bury each and every member of society!
For the Senufo-Tagba, as for many people around the world, ceremony marks important transitions in life. Songs, dancing, and the sounds of musical instruments are an essential part of both the events that celebrate marriage and those that mark the death of loved ones.
Among the rural Senufo-Tagba, all the girls of a particular age set become brides at the same time. This transition from youth to womanhood takes place in a week-long ceremony of ritual and celebration that is carried out once a year among the women of the village.
On the first day of the wedding ceremony the married women of the village take all the brides to a sacred grove of trees located only a short distance from the village. There the women teach the young brides how to be good wives and instruct them in the rituals that are necessary for a happy and prosperous married life.
After time in the sacred grove, the brides are carried by their female relatives across a river on their way back to the village. The voices of the female chorus rise and fall while the sounds of the sichaala (gourd rattle) and tchere (calabash)"water drum" are heard. As they are carried across the river, the brides face the sky. This part of their journey symbolizes their transformation from girls to women and their reintegration into society.
Once on the other side of the river, the older women dress the brides in beautiful clothes and cover their heads with cloth. As they walk along in the procession they often are shaded by colorful umbrellas.
Back in the village, the women take the brides from compound to compound where members of the group sing, play their instruments, and dance.
Here famous female singers perform to celebrate the transformation the girls have made and the pride Senufo women have in married life.
As the women sing, they and other female performers provide music with sichaala and the larger sichaa-gun-go rattles. Often they are accompanied by men playing punge drums, and occasionally by male djegele players who add to the music.
For this part of the celebration, one brides female relatives have all worn dresses of the same cloth and pattern. As the women sing and dance they are accompanied by two gbogo drummers. All other men are a part of the audience.
While all musical instruments may be played by men, the sichaala and sichaa-gun-go rattles and the tchere "water drum" are considered women's instruments and are played most prominently at weddings. It is primarily at these important celebrations that Senufo women are the featured performers.
In the evenings, as part of the wedding celebration, all members of the village gather to sing and dance. Djegele players are the central performers, joined by men playing gbogo drums and sometimes other instruments, like the karga, a metal scraper. While the musicians play and sing, a female chorus is often heard as the women spontaneously join in the music.
As the djegele band plays, men and women dance, moving in an informal circle. Often, as a young man performs a fancy dance in front of the djegele, he is rewarded by a young woman in the group who drapes a cloth around his neck as a sign of her admiration for his dancing skill.
The ancestors of the Senufo-Tagba are ever present in the lives of their families and the society of the village. The Tagba acknowledge the death of a member of the village at the time of burial and for several months afterwards. During this time music is an essential part of rituals and ceremonies that allow the deceased to join the ancestors.
Each year, at the beginning of the planting season, all villagers take part in a week-long funeral celebration which honors the ancestors and especially those who have died over the past year. Dancing, singing, and the music of the djegele, gbogo, and karga fill the village. While the music plays, a son or daughter of the deceased dances with a fly whisk, holding it in the right hand for the death of a woman and in the left for the death of a man. While some parts of the funeral celebration are joyous, others are somber. Dirges remember the deceased, telling about their lives and using traditional metaphors that refer to the loss of a person. The words, in essence, ask the members of the family and of the village if they can believe that they will never see their loved one again.
..for Entertainment :
Music in the Tagba village serves many purposes. The same musicians and singers who play to encourage young farmers and sing while preparing food also perform during weddings and funerals. Likewise, performers who play a vital role in the rituals of closed societies, like the Hunters Society or the Komo Society, also provide entertainment at a wide range of social and educational gatherings of the entire village.
While most Senufo men are farmers, many also take on other roles which require specialized skills like the work of blacksmithing, weaving, mud cloth making, and hunting.
The ngoni players of the Hunters Society are some of the Tagbas most lively entertainers. These young men play a stringed instrument with a long neck, the donzo ngoni (hunters ngoni) which is a variant of the kora played by the Mande people of neighboring Mali.
Hunters dress in mud cloth that is colored to camouflage them in the bush. This ngoni player wears amulets that are sewn across the front and back of his long shirt to protect him and give him a successful hunt. Among these amulets are cowrie shells stitched around his neck and the teeth, claws, and tusks of animals he has killed. In his pocket he carries his tbine, a whistle that was once used while hunting but is played more today in performance.
The donzo ngoni, like the kora, is made from a calabash that is skinned like a drum and fitted with a long neck and strings. The ngoni is traditionally used to accompany narrative songs that relate deeds of courage and the prowess of famous hunters as well as the history of a particular group of people. Despite the foreign origin of the ngoni, Senufo hunters all know the myth of its beginning.
A hunter rose early and hunted for a long time without killing any animals. Exhausted and in despair, he sat down late in the afternoon to rest. After a while, he heard the sound of an instrument he had not heard before. High above the hunter, in the branches of a tree, a spirit sat, playing a ngoni. Suddenly, the spirit dropped the ngoni and the startled hunter caught it. In that instant the hunter was given the knowledge to play. He carried the ngoni back to his village and began to sing the adventures of hunting. From that time until today the ngoni has been a hunters instrument, the donzo ngoni.
Today the donzo ngoni is played not only during closed rituals of the Hunters Society but also in village gatherings and regional musical festivals. Here a young hunter, accompanied by karga, gbogo and gourd rattle, plays the highly popular donzo ngoni in the center of the village.
Donzo ngoni players often perform music of their own composition that may include elements of traditional music while expressing the creativity of the performer.
On a stage located near the village school, a Hunters Society ensemble performs in a competition that is presented as part of an educational program about AIDS. The musicians entertain villagers of all ages who have gathered to hear them sing and speak out against the spread of the HIV-AIDS virus.
Following the competition, the performers leave the stage and are joined by djegele and gbogo players for an informal concert while members of the audience dance. The fly whisk that hangs from the wrist of the hunter in the foreground is made from the tail of a bush pig that he has killed. He wears it as a symbol of his accomplishment as a hunter.
In the sound clips featured here, the ngoni player Doulaye gathers members of the village Hunters Society together in the evening to play. They are joined by their wives, children, and friends as the party goes on through the night and into the early hours of morning.
To begin the evening of music, Doulaye sings a spontaneous invitation and announces tolon wulila, "Play is up, the entertainment begins!" As he sings, he calls out the names of family members and friends, including his deceased father, his own wives, Mamu and Awa, and Lamissa Bangali, his friend who has come to record the music.
We the hunters are getting together to play. Mamu, Awa, Lamissa, Soungalo, all of you who are honoring us by being here, we are up to play. Join us. Our play is taking place in the village. It is open to all. Come on! Join us. This is donzo play, come play with us!
As the evening progresses, Doulaye sings about the dangers of AIDS, SIDA in French. He warns the group that no one is free of the dangers of SIDA.
SIDA spares nobody. People in the village, listen, be careful.
Blacks, whites, SIDA sees no difference. SIDA will finish the village girls who always want money. SIDA will finish the village young men who always want girl-friends, and want all of them. SIDA will finish them all!
No one is safe: school teachers, doctors, ngoni players, men, women,
everybody! Muslims, Christians, everybody!
Americans say they have no medicine, the Arabs say they have no medicine, the French say they have no medicine.
SIDA is no good!
People in the village, people in the country, everywhere, be careful.
Married women are not safe, married men are not safe. Be careful!
Finally, far into the evening, Doulaye begins to sing the values of his society and his village. As he sings, he composes a teaching song to remind all listeners that, although life in the village may be hard, it is no good to run away. Accept your responsibilities, follow the lessons you are taught, remember your family and the ways of your villagethese are truths that you cannot escape.
As you hear Doulays song, listen for the strings and the metal jingles of the ngoni joined by the karga and the tbine, the hunters whistle.
Family is a well. Once you are in it you cannot get out!
Leadership is like a well. If you are the leader, you are in a well, you
cannot get out!
Then you have to be good to your family members.
Be good to your followers.
All these people will give your names to children in the village.
Be good to those who value good action.
Never be good to those who are forgetful and don't know you are helping.
Husband and wife, help each other. When a wife does not follow her
husband, this only turns the home to ruins. When an apprentice does not follow
the teacher, this only brings ruin.
A leader must be a leader in the family, in the village. A hunter must be
a hunter in the bush.
A fish remains a fish in the river. Keep your role.
It is no better anywhere else.
The djegele (wooden xylophone) truly is the musical instrument most characteristic of the Senufo people. The sounds of the djegele are heard at almost every ceremonial and social gathering: during ton vala competitions, during wedding and funeral celebrations, for entertainment at the center of the village, and at music festivals throughout the region.
Here a yatinye, or musical ensemble, performs under a tree at the center of the village. Yatinye literally means "thing that makes noise" and the typical djegele yatinye includes two djegele and two gbogo drums. A djegele player wears dje-nyan-ya, metal jingles, on his wrists. As he strikes the instrument with his mallets, a metallic rhythm is added to the tones of the wooden keys. Likewise, the music of each gbogo player includes the sound of the drum head and the rhythm of gbo-nyan-ya jingles that are bound to the rim.
Often, when many people gather, a karga metal scraper may be added as well as sichaala and sichaa-gun-go rattles or the zadoungo trumpet. The two women here are doing what most people do to djegele musicdancing!
Entertainment is the primary function of djegele music, even though the sounds of the djegele are heard on occasions that are somber as well as joyous. In preparation for a celebration, members of the djegele yatinye set up their instruments in the typical fashion, with the two djegele together and the two gbogo near them and side-by-side. Soon the open space before the musicians will be filled with dancers and villagers who have come to join in singing, clapping, and urging the dancers to move close to the djegele yatinye and demonstrate their most fancy foot-work!
These young men dance in front of the djegele yatinye at the end of a long day. They and all members of the village gather to celebrate the beginning of the growing season and the hard work of a successful ton vala hoeing competition.
The Spurlock Museum's Online Exploration
Music in Society:
Musical Expressions of the Senufo-Tagba
Beginning at an early age, individuals in Senufo society are divided into age sets that comprise a hierarchy of knowledge within the community and serve an educational and social function throughout the lives of their members. These groups help ensure that everyone learns important rules for society and that important social work gets done as knowledge and responsibilities are passed down through time from one age set to the next.
Members of a ton vala are all from a certain age set. Success in the labor assigned to their age grades is one way that individual members display their level of accomplishment among their age mates, establishing themselves as worthy mates and as good members of society.
A person in one’s family line who has died, often thought of as an ancestor by the elders of the family because the deceased lived at least two generations earlier.
The dried, hollow shell of a gourd.
Charaga literally means “the shaking thing.” It is a common term for several variations of a gourd instrument that has a net of cowrie shells or beads woven to cover its surface. The sounds of a charaga are produced as the player shakes the gourd causing the shells or the beads to scrape against its hard exterior. A skilled musician can create a wide variety of sounds on a simple charaga. The charaga, primarily a woman’s instrument, is sometimes played by men as part of a djegele ensemble.
The djegele is a wooden xylophone played by one musician. It is perhaps the most important and distinct musical instrument played by the Senufo people. Djegele are paired in performance and the djegele ensemble is central to the music performed in a wide range of ritual and social settings. The ensemble most often includes two gbogo drums and is called yatinye, literally "that thing that makes noise."
The djegele is made entirely of natural materials. The long frame is lashed together with bark rope, which is both strong and flexible. The top of the djegele typically has 20 wooden keys of varying pitches. These keys are arranged with the low pitches on the player's left and the high pitches on the right, just like the western piano! Each key is tuned by cutting to size and then shaving until the proper pitch is achieved.
When playing, the djegele performer hits the keys with rubber-tipped mallets while wearing metal jingles called dje-nyan-ya on each wrist. These jingles add another musical layer and fill out the sound.
Hollow gourds hung under the keys of the djegele help the tone resonate longer and project louder. Tuning the keys and setting the gourds of a djegele is a true art, mastered by only a few instrument makers in the village.
Each gourd has a piece of membranous spider web or similar fiber covering a hole cut in the gourd. Sound waves that enter the hollow gourd and pass through the tough web are modified to add a dense buzzing to the djegele’s timbre. This unusual kazoo-like sound is very much desired by djegele makers and musicians.
Anyone who takes an active role in listening to djegele music in the village may focus on either the melody played on the keys, the percussive sound of the mallets striking the keys, the percussive sound of the dje-nyan-ya tied around the player’s wrist, or the second melody created by the buzzing spider ’s webs located on the gourd resonators.
Often other instruments join in, like a karga metal scraper or sichaala and sichaa-gun-go rattles. While this is the typical ensemble, a variety of instruments may be added to make an even bigger sound. In addition, the voices of the musicians and female singers fill the air with rich tones and familiar proverbs, while dancers move to the rhythms.
The dje-nyan-ya are musical bracelets worn by of the djegele xylophone player. Each dje-nyan-ya is made up of metal jingles attached to a wide leather band. The musician ties one dje-nyan-ya around each wrist so that as he strikes the keys of the djegele the sounds of the jingles are added to the music. This addition of high metallic sound to the tones of the djegele keys is similar in production and effect to the addition of sound made by the gbo-nyan-ya jingles that are attached to the gbogo drum.
For the Senfuo-Tagba, the word ngoni may refer to any stringed instrument. The donzo (hunter’s) ngoni, however, is a stringed instrument that is played almost exclusively by male members of the Hunter Society. It is similar, both in its construction and its function within the culture, to the kora of the neighboring Bambara people.
Like the kora, the donzo ngoni is a harp-lute with a body made of a calabash. The top of the calabash is cut away and the opening is skinned like a drum. A long neck is affixed through the gourd and a high bridge is attached to the middle of the skin. The strings run from the end of the neck to pass on either side of the bridge and terminate behind the bridge. The ngoni has fewer strings (6-10) than the kora and is sometimes tuned with pegs instead of sliding rings.
The gbogo is a bowl-shaped drum made from a hollow calabash gourd. Two gbogo drums are essential to the typical djegele ensemble. The head of the gbogo is made of goat or antelope skin that has been laced onto the gourd while still wet. As the skin dries, it shrinks and becomes taut, thus producing the desired sound.
The leather straps that bind the head to the body also secure 2 to 3 metal sheets (flattened roofing tin) that protrude up above the drumhead. Each metal sheet has numerous metal rings attached around its edges to create jingles that vibrate when the drum is played. The gbogo is always made from a calabash and must have metal jingles, called gbo-nyan-ya. In some ways, the sound of the Senufo gbogo resembles the sound of a tambourine.
The gbo-nyan-ya are metal jingles attached to the rim of the gbogo drum so that they stand up around the drum head. Made of flattened roofing tin, each gbo-nyan-ya is fitted with metal rings that hang around its edges and vibrate as the gbogo is played.
The gbo-nyan-ya add a layer of high-pitched metallic sound to the deeper, more resonant sound of the drum’s skin.
The word karga literally means “scraping.” The karga is a metal percussion instrument shaped like an elongated clam with notches cut in the edges of its two halves. A metal scraper is rubbed along the notches to produce sound. The karga is sometimes added to an ensemble that features the djegele or ngoni. Like a spice, its addition enhances the music but the ensemble can perform without it. The karga player must take care that its sound not get too loud and drown out the melody.
The kono-nyan-ya are the jingles found on a kora or ngoni. They are attached to the head of the instrument’s neck and consist of one broad, curved metal sheet with many small metal rings attached around its edges. The kono-nyan-ya vibrate as the strings of the instrument are played, adding a layer of metallic sound to the music. The construction and function of these jingles is practically identical to that of the gbo-nyan-ya on the gbogo drum.
The kora is an instrument similar to the harp-lute with a body made of a calabash and up to 21 strings. Like the hunter’s ngoni of the Senufo-Tagba, it primarily is played by male members of the Hunter Society. It is a popular instrument among the Senufo, who apparently borrowed it from the neighboring Bambara people. The kora is tuned by adjusting leather bands or rings that slide along the top of the neck.Legumes
The word lusulo literally means sheanut (lu), pound (su), process (lo). The arduous process of pounding sheanut kernels in a wooden sugo and dologo is carried out in preparation for making an oily butter used in cooking. The young women who do this work sing while keeping interlocking rhythms in the pounding. Thus the term lusulo refers not only to pounding sheanuts but also to the music that the girls make.
For the Senfuo-Tagba, the word ngoni may refer to any stringed instrument, including the guitar, kora, and donzo (hunter’s) ngoni.
The term punzanika literally means “large drum.” The punzanika is a wooden, barrel-shaped drum, without jingles, that is skinned on both ends. It is played only once a year during the yagbaki ceremony that marks the end of mourning for all of the dead in a particular village. The punzanika player also plays a metal bell that he strikes with metal rings worn on his fingers. The punzanika and bell are accompanied by two djegele.
Newly forged Senufo hoes are purchased from a blacksmith. Each hoe has a wide and deep blade and a short, stout handle, made from the trunk of a small tree that is cut below the root knob. The blacksmith attaches the blade to the handle by heating the metal shank and forcing it into a hole cut in the root knob of the handle. The red-hot shank sears the wood, hardening it and making a very tight fit.
The sichaa-gun-go is a rattle made of a large, spherical gourd that is hollowed and filled with pebbles. It is a sort of bass sichaala, but it never out-numbers the sichaalas in an ensemble. It is often played by a lead singer or the leader among a group of female sichaala players.
The sichaala is a rattle made from an elongate gourd that is hollowed and filled with pebbles. It gets its name from the sound it produces. The sichaala is the primary musical instrument of Senufo women and is often played by groups who sing with djegele ensembles. These women perform songs of praise in a call-and-response form, lead by a chosen member of the group. They play their sichaalas polyrhythmically.
Sugo & Dologo
The wooden sugo and dologo become a musical instrument in the hands of Senufo women as they work at pounding sheanuts to make butter. As the women pound they sing a social commentary on the behaviors of relatives and friends, keeping rhythm with the pounding of the long dologo into the sugo. The art of pounding in rhythmically interesting and interlocking ways helps to make the work go faster.
The tbine is a wooden, vessel flute that is sometimes played by hunters to communicate when in the bush or by young children when watching cattle. In the past, tbine were used to communicate when a village was under attack. All young people learned tbine codes—secret phrases produced in imitation of speech—during their initiation seclusion. While the tbine is still played by members of the Hunter Society, tbine ensembles are rare in Senufo-Tagba villages today.
The tbine has an open embouchure (mouthpiece) and 2 to 3 finger holes. Although blown like a panpipe, the tbine is closed and roughly spherical, like an ocarina.
The term tchere literally means “calabash” and refers to a round gourd that has been cut in half and hollowed for holding liquids or foods. Women often make music during wedding celebrations by placing their tchere with its rim down on the surface of the water at the river’s edge and striking it by hand or with a wooden spoon. The songs that they sing while playing their “water drum” refer to the events at hand, reinforcing socially important ideals of Senufo women, particularly hard work. When not near the river, the tchere often is played mount-down in a pan of water.
In addition, the tchere often is made into a musical shaker, the tchere sichaala. This half-gourd has cowrie shells sewn around the rim. It is a woman’s instrument, played primarily at weddings. Music and acrobatics are combined as the women playing the tchere sichaala toss it into the air and catch it in time with the music of the djegele and gbogo ensemble. The charaga, a similar instrument, is made of a whole gourd that is covered by a net sewn with cowries or beads.
There may be several ton vala within one village, depending upon the population of the village and the number of age sets.
The traxha is a stone used to grind grain into meal. It becomes a musical instrument as Senufo women keep rhythmic accompaniment to the songs and stories they sing while grinding. The women ease tensions of the day as they express frustrations, complaints, and worries in song and match their singing to the physical exertion of grinding.
The zadoungo is a side-blown trumpet. The word literally means “hyena,” a reference to the animal whose voice gives the zadoungo its name. An antelope horn is used for the mouthpiece and first section of the zadoungo; a calabash gourd forms the bell. The zadoungo is played by men and women alike during all sorts of public gatherings such as funerals or lineage celebrations. It is played either solo or in groups that accompany djegele ensembles. It also is used for sending messages, such as calling people to the fields to work and later to reassemble and return home.