Monthly Archives: February 2011

in this case, we lute for ears

The four stringed African lute (previously) known by a variety of names across West Africa: Xalam in Wolof, Ngoni in Bambara, Tidnit in Hassaniya, Tehardine in Tamashek, Hoddu in Pulaar, and so on… The general construction and concept is the same. The resonator is made of wood from the Commiphora Africana (adres in Arabic, adearas in Tamashek). The four strings are historically horse hair, today more commonly fishing line or bicycle cables.

Aghaly Ag Moumine, Thardine – Timbouctou, Mali

Ahmed “Imbend”, Tidnit – Chinguetti, Mauritania

Cheikh, Thardine – Kidal, Mali

The instrument still carries a stigma — and the inference of belonging to a non-mobile lower class. Lute musicians do not simply play but are also luthiers, constructing their own instruments for hundreds of years. But the ubiquity of the instrument across W. Africa has set the stage for a replacement, in the form of the guitar. The contemporary difference being that the latter carries none of the social baggage. The exception being those that can innovate and redefine themselves in the midst of rapid cultural shifts…

Bassekou Kouyate, Ngoni – Timbouctou, Mali