So, you hollow out piece of wood into an oblong bowl shape, and you attach a dowel to it. Stretch a dried animal skin over that, and put some strings on it. Instruments of this general construction and in a range of sizes can be found from Morrocco to Nigeria and everywhere in between. It goes by any number of local names: Malian masters like Bassekou Kouyaté
and Cheick Hamala Diabaté
call it ngoni
. Senegalese Wolof griots like Samba Aliou Guissé
call it xalam
. And Morroccan gnawa musicians
like Hassan Hakmoun
and Hamid El Kasri
funky on the larger version that they call the gimbri or sentir
. [not: see hoverovers for link descriptions]
Cheick Hamala Diabate again, but not on ngoni: this time he joins antique banjo enthusiast Bob Carlin for a duet on... antique banjos
Here's another Hassan Hakmoun
clip. Audio and video are out of sync, but by exactly one beat, so it's not actually too terrible to watch!
This clip features a nice groove from the Master Musicians of Jajouka
This clip is an odd mishmash of images, a combination of travel snapshots but with photos of gimbri players interspersed, but audio is a really nice Gnawa groove
And this little high-speed montage clip (it's only just over a minute long), well, you may find either kinda cool or kinda annoying: AfroBeat Banjo
There are, of course, many related instruments across West Africa: oamong them, the larger donso ngoni
and the akonting
. See also: MySpace Music akonting page
There's also the kora
, of course, but that's a whole 'nother FPP.
And finally, this incredibly exhaustive MySpace Music page, Banjo Roots
packs more info, images and links onto a single page than many websites do in 20 or more. A real labor of love!