African Folk Music Instruments You Need to Know About

The African continent is home to a wealth of traditional musical styles and instruments. In this blog post, we take a look at some of the most iconic African folk music instruments, from the djembe to the kora.


African folk music is the traditional music of the people of Africa. It is a genre of music that is passed down from generation to generation, and it is typically played on acoustic instruments.

There are many different types of African folk music, but some of the most common instruments used include the following:

-The kora is a stringed instrument that originated in West Africa. It is typically played by griots, who are traditional storytellers and musicians.
-The Djembe is a type of drum that originated in West Africa. It is usually played with the hands, and it has a wide range of tones that can be produced.
-The shekere is a type of percussion instrument that is made from a dried gourd that has been covered in beads or shells. It originates from West Africa and it is often used in rhythmic patterns.
-The mbira is a type of musical instrument that consists of a wooden board with metal keys attached to it. It is commonly played in parts of southern Africa, and it has a soft and mellow sound.


Drums are the most important African folk music instrument. They are used to keep the beat and provide rhythm for the other instruments. There are many different types of drums, including the djembe, conga, bongos, and timbales. Each type of drum has a different sound and can be used for different purposes.


The djembe is a goblet-shaped drum originally from West Africa, most notably the countries of Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast. The djembe is thought to be of Malinke origin. It has become a symbol of African and world music.

The Height of the Djembe: taller drums have a deeper sound while shorter drums have a higher pitch.

The Shell of the Djembe: can be made from any hardwood but most commonly made from mahogany, rosewood, or teak.

The Skin of the Djembe: traditionally goat skin was used for the drumhead but nowadays synthetic materials are also used.


The dunun is a type of drum originating from West Africa. It is usually made from a wooden frame with a skin stretched over the top. Dununs are traditionally played with sticks, and they come in a variety of sizes, each with its own unique sound.

The dunun is an important part of the traditional music of countries like Mali, Guinea, and Senegal. In recent years, it has gained popularity outside of Africa as well, with many non-African musicians incorporating it into their music.

Talking Drum

The talking drum is a type of drum that is indigenous to Africa. It is used to communicate over long distances, and it can mimic the sound of human speech. The drum is usually played with two sticks, and the pitch of the drum can be altered by squeezing the ropes that run along the sides of the drum.

Wind Instruments

There are many different types of African folk music instruments, but one of the most common is the wind instrument. Wind instruments include flutes, trumpets, and saxophones. They are often used in traditional African music, but can also be found in other genres such as jazz and blues.


The flute is a family of musical instruments of the woodwind group. Unlike other woodwind instruments, the flute is held horizontally against the mouth. The flute family can be divided into two sub-families: open flutes, and closed flutes.

The player of an open flute controls the pitch by blowing air across a sharp edge that splits the air stream. This split air stream then vibrates against a column of air inside the body of the instrument. Open flutes include instruments such as the panpipe and bottle flute.

Closed flutes are distinguished from open flutes by having a plug (called a fipple) in front of the blow hole. The fipple redirects the airstream and causes it to pass across an edge, called a labium, which vibrates and creates sound. The recorder is an example of a closed flute.


The kora is a 21-string harp-lute from West Africa. It is most commonly played in Senegal, Gambia, Mali, and Guinea. The instrument is usually played by griots, who are hereditary musicians who sing praise songs for their patrons. The kora has a largecalabash soundboard which amplifies the sound of the strings. The strings are plucked with the thumb and forefinger; the remaining fingers are used to support the hand that plucks the strings.


One of the most popular folk music instruments in India is the shehnai. It is made out of wood and has a conical bore with a double reed at one end. The instrument is about two feet long and its sound resembles that of a trumpet. It is commonly used during wedding ceremonies and other important religious events.

String Instruments

The kora is a 21-stringed lute-harp used extensively in West African music. The kora is traditionally made out of wood from the calabash tree with a hide stretched over the sounding board. It is played with the right hand while the left hand holds the instrument in place. The kora has a distinctive ring-like sound that is produced by the plucking of the strings.


The fiddle is a type of string instrument that is typically used in folk music. It is also sometimes called a violin. Fiddles can be made from different materials, but they are usually made from wood.

Fiddles are typically played with a bow, and they have four strings. The strings are tuned to the pitches G, D, A, and E. Fiddles can be played solo or in an ensemble. They are commonly used in traditional Irish music, Scottish music, American folk music, and bluegrass.

Fiddles come in different sizes, and the size of the instrument affects the pitch of the notes that it produces. For example, a smaller fiddle will produce higher-pitched notes than a larger fiddle.

Fiddles can be expensive instruments, but they do not require a lot of maintenance. You will need to rosin your bow before each use, and you should also tune your fiddle regularly.


The harp is a distinctive African folk music instrument with a long history. Harps come in many different sizes and shapes, but they all have one thing in common: they are stringed instruments that are played by plucking the strings with the fingers.

There are many different types of harps, including the kora (a West African harp with 21 strings), the nyatiti (an 8-stringed Kenyan harp), and the mvet (a Cameroonian harp with 10 strings). The music played on these instruments is often very lively and often accompanied by dancing.

Harp music has a long history in Africa, dating back to ancient times. The instrument was traditionally used for storytelling and ceremonial purposes, and it continues to be an important part of African culture today.


A lyre is a string instrument that has a long neck and a y-shaped frame. The strings of a lyre are stretched from the top of the instrument to the bottom, and they are plucked with the fingers. The sound of a lyre is very similar to that of a harp, but it is not as loud. Lyres were once common in Africa, but they are now mostly found in North Africa.

The strings of a lyre are usually made from animal intestine or hair, and the frame is often made from wood or bone. Some lyres have as few as four strings, while others have more than 20. Lyres were often used for religious ceremonies or for entertaining royalty.


Traditional African music is a vital part of the continent’s cultural heritage. African folk music instruments play an important role in this musical traditions. From the drums of West Africa to the string instruments of East Africa, these African folk music instruments are essential to the continent’s rich musical history.

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