Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What is it?

It was my birthday recently. Some friends who know my penchant for small stringed instruments - I play mandolin and ukulele and also have a baglama - brought me back this instrument from Morocco:

It's shaped like a camel-skin covered frying pan, with a tubular neck. It has three strings and makes a bass sound with a satisfying rattle. Can anyone tell me any more about it - what it is, how it's played, what kind of music it's associated with? I've come across a mention of a North African instument called a guenbri which kind of fits this description. I know there's a few musicologists reading this blog - can you help?


gauteandersen said...

Coming across some more stuff via google, I found a description of arab musical instruments here, and by the looks of it, it seems you have got yourself a:

Guenbri, ginbri, or hajouje,

"A deep three-stringed wooden bass instrument, sometimes with an added wooden resonator. Fretless, with a long cylindrical neck and a sound box covered with skin. In Morocco, often used by Gnawa musicians."

Of the instruments listed on that page, this one seems most likely, sharing factors as bass sound, fretless and tubular neck, as you said.

Might be a Sintir/Gimbri, but they have a rectangular body.

Or a Lutar?
Some more pointers here perhpas.

Hope this got you any further.

Good luck, and have fun exploring it!

Transpontine said...

Thanks for that - the tubular neck takes some getting used too, but I like the sound. I found a clip that showed somebody playing it, the trick is to pluck the strings while tapping out a percussive rhythm on the sound box:

Mr Tear said...

You can hear some fantastic Gnawa from Essaouira's guimbri master, Mahmoud Guenya. This is how the instrument can be played:

Gnawa music is a ritual music traditionally played at all night ceremonies called Lillas. The ceremony is designed to induce a trance like state through music and ecstatic dancing. I've never been to a Lilla, but at last year's Essaouira festival, the atmosphere around some of the smaller stages where the more traditional Gnawa musicians played was more like a punk gig than a religious ritual...wild dancing, many people singing along, gangs of Moroccan kids chanting at each other across the medina squares. It's been a long time since I went to a gig in this country that had such a level of audience participation!