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mulonga.net >> Cultural Exchange >> Current Events >> Music instrument workshop: The Kankolimba
Music instrument workshop: The Kankolimba
Tuesday, 15 March 2005 00:00

In the first week of February 2005, the Batonga Museum in Binga, in collaboration with Tonga.Online Project facilitated an instrument-makers workshop for the purpose of building a set of marimbas tuned to the sound of the local Kankobela, specifically designed for the playing of Tonga music, in particular the music of the Kankobela and the Nyele.

The workshop was attended by 2 Kankobela players, 1 singer, 2 Nyele players, and 4 Marimba players. Thanks to Mr Orbert Muleya who contributed excellent carpentry skills and to Keith Goddard who assisted with identifying the tuning to be chosen and outlining the objectives of the project. Professor Andrew Tracey from the International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown, South Africa, provided long-distance advice. We applaud Sengamo Ndlovu and Obert Muleya who are full time on the invention with the support of our music advisers. TAZILYI BALIMA! TUNOOLI BIINGI KUKUZYANA. "Crops are not eaten by farmers alone! We will be many in dancing."


The workshop was attended by kankobela players Edward Mungombe and Katulo Mudimba, singer Saliya Tshuma Muleya, nyele players David Mungombe and Jossam Munkuli, and marimba players Sengamo Ndlovu, Onias Munsaka, Never Mukombwe and Ginger Munsaka. Orbert Mulenga contributed his great carpentry skills and Keith Goddard assisted with identifying the tuning to be chosen and outlining the objectives of the project. Andrew Tracey from the International Library of African Music (ILAM) in Grahamstown, South Africa, provided long-distance advice.

The principle aim of the project was to create a set of instruments specifically designed for the playing of Tonga music, in particular the music of the kankobela and the nyele.This necessitated the creation of a layout where the sounds produced and the layout would be easily recognisable to a kankobela player. With this in mind, it was decided that the instrument should be called a kankolimba - in other words a blend of the kankobela and the kalimba.

The instruments themselves were named after four of the drums of the ngoma buntibe - muliliko (soprano), tukuntundu (tenor), mpininga (baritone) and nyina (bass). The first two instruments have been designed so that two players can sit at them and play their individual parts. When completed, the two lowest instruments will be laid out exactly like tunkobela.

The keys of the instruments have been given the names of the nyele as found on Orbert's kankobela, these being from left to right: mpindakati, mukwele, siamupa, chigonka, dimbizya, sayina, siakiinya, siachigonta, nsenseku.

It was hoped that, by the end of the week, we would have completed at least two instruments.This proved to be too ambitious but we did manage to finish the tuning of the keys for muliliko and tukuntundu and to make most of the resonators for muliliko.These resonators proved our biggest challenge. After much discussion and experimentation, we discovered a method for sealing off the ends of the PVC tubes and tuning the resonators to the required pitch.

Already musicians like David Mungombe are beginning to experiment with putting Tonga music onto the instruments. Later this year, once Sengamo and Orbert have completed the task of completing all four instruments, the Batonga Museum and Tonga.Online will arrange a second workshop dedicated to working towards building a basic repertoire of Tonga music especially arranged for the tunkolimba.