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13 Musical Instruments Used in Precolonial Africa

13 Musical Instruments Used in Precolonial Africa

History of Musical Instruments in Precolonial Africa

Before colonization in Africa, a lot of musical instruments were as a result of Africans doing almost everything with music. Soon they created several types for every occasion. Beautiful harmonies filled the atmosphere during weddings, prayers were made with tambourines, rites with harps, funerals with Cuba and consulting the ancestors with drums. For the most part of their education, they taught using songs in a very festive and exciting way. As people of old described to their children, peaceful living was the norm life and all they constantly celebrated life. Songs, music and dancing used in ceremonies, rituals or storytelling to pass down from generation to generation.

Africans particularly love good music and it is still evident in today's society, all they need is a reason and the drums come out. To begin our discussion for today let's go back to the 19th century. During those times, some drums were created and used only for special festivals. For example special drums for; making announcements around town, weddings or funerals. Also, only specific people elected used those special drums.

Types of Musical Instruments Originating from Africa

Enough about drums, let's talk about other instruments from various African countries:

  • Balafon (Xylophones) from Gambia

A musical instrument from Africa. Source:

Balafon, a musical instrument from Africa.


  • Mbira ’Thumb Piano from Zimbabwe

Mbira thumb piano from Zimbabwe source:

Mbira thumb piano from Zimbabwe


  • Slit gongs from New Guinea

Slit Gong from New Guinea

  • Rattles

African rattle from Malawi

African rattle from Malawi.

  • Double bells

Double bell from Cameroon.

Double bell from Cameroon.

  • Ngoni

Ngoni from Mali

  • Fiddles

Africa harp or Fiddle

  • Flutes

Kassa flute from Gambia. Source:

Kassa flute from Gambia.

  • Trumpets

3 types of African Trumpets. Source

African trumpets from Congo

  • Talking drum from West Africa

A talking drum from by the Yorubas. Source:

Gangan: Yoruba talking drum.

  • Banjos

African banjo. Source:

African Banjo

  • Panpipe

Panpipes from Zimbabwe. Source:

Panpipea from Zimbabwe


These instruments are still used in music today, though they've been fine-tuned and simplified they've inspired different genres of music around the world. Music genres like; Rumba, Conga, Bomba, Cumbia, Salsa, Samba etc. Have you ever noticed how Black Americans or African artists songs always seem like they're telling a story? It's because that's what music has always been for us, a way to tell our stories.

Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba - Lesson Plan


Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba - Unit of Study


Our Ancestories - Congo Country Profile - Free Worksheets


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