When delving into the realm of African music history and literature, one cannot overlook the profound significance of musical instruments in the rich tapestry of African culture. The continent's musical heritage is deeply intertwined with a diverse array of instruments that not only produce captivating sounds but also serve as vessels of tradition and cultural identity.

Types and Classifications

African musical instruments can be categorized into four main groups: Aerophones, Chordophones, Idiophones, and Membranophones. Aerophones are instruments that produce sound by vibrating air. This category includes iconic instruments such as the kakaki, algaita, and oja. Chordophones, on the other hand, produce sound through vibrating strings, examples of which are the goge, une, and goje. Idiophones create sound through the vibration of the instrument itself, including instruments like the ogene, udu, and ekwe. Lastly, Membranophones produce sound through vibrating membranes, such as the bata, dundun, and gangan.


Each type of instrument possesses unique characteristics that not only differentiate them but also contribute to the overall musical landscape. For instance, Aerophones like the algaita are known for their haunting melodies and commanding presence during cultural ceremonies. Chordophones such as the goge exhibit versatility in producing both rhythmic accompaniment and melodic phrases. Idiophones like the ekwe are renowned for their percussive elements that add depth and texture to musical compositions. Membranophones, represented by instruments like the bata, offer pulsating beats that drive the rhythm of traditional African music.

Festivals and Dances

Across Africa, festivals and dances play a pivotal role in showcasing the vibrancy and diversity of musical traditions. Instruments take center stage during these celebrations, adding a dynamic dimension to the festivities. Whether it's the rhythmic beats of the gangan at a Yoruba festival or the melodic strains of the une at a Hausa dance ceremony, instruments enrich the cultural experience and create lasting memories for participants and spectators alike.

Other Arts

Furthermore, instruments are not only confined to the realm of music but also intersect with other forms of African art. From intricately carved Chordophones displayed as works of art to Idiophones used as props in traditional dances, these instruments serve as cultural artifacts that embody the creativity and craftsmanship of African artisans.

In essence, the study of African musical instruments transcends mere musical exploration; it offers a gateway to understanding the multifaceted dimensions of African culture and heritage. By delving into the classifications, characteristics, festivals, dances, and other arts associated with these instruments, one can truly appreciate the profound impact they have had on shaping the musical landscape of the continent.


  1. Differentiate Between the Various Types and Classes of Musical Instruments
  2. Classify Them Into Their Categories

Lesson Note

Musical instruments are devices created or adapted to make musical sounds. They come in various shapes, sizes, and types, each with its unique timbre and character. Understanding the different classes and categories of musical instruments can enhance your appreciation for music and broaden your horizons as a musician or music enthusiast.

Lesson Evaluation

Congratulations on completing the lesson on Instruments. Now that youve explored the key concepts and ideas, its time to put your knowledge to the test. This section offers a variety of practice questions designed to reinforce your understanding and help you gauge your grasp of the material.

You will encounter a mix of question types, including multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and essay questions. Each question is thoughtfully crafted to assess different aspects of your knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Use this evaluation section as an opportunity to reinforce your understanding of the topic and to identify any areas where you may need additional study. Don't be discouraged by any challenges you encounter; instead, view them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

  1. What is the classification of the musical instrument 'kakaki'? A. Aerophones B. Chordophones C. Idiophones D. Membranophones Answer: A. Aerophones
  2. Which of the following is an example of a chordophone instrument? A. Ichaka B. Ogene C. Kukuma D. Agogo Answer: C. Kukuma
  3. What are the characteristics of idiophones instruments? A. They produce sound through vibrating membranes B. They produce sound through vibrating strings C. They produce sound through being struck D. They produce sound through breath vibration Answer: C. They produce sound through being struck
  4. Which type of musical instruments are typically used in festivals and ceremonies in African culture? A. Aerophones B. Membranophones C. Chordophones D. Idiophones Answer: D. Idiophones
  5. Which of the following instruments belong to the category of membranophones? A. Oja B. Kundung C. Banga D. Goge Answer: C. Banga
  6. What is the primary function of aerophones in traditional African music? A. Providing rhythm B. Melodic accompaniment C. Creating harmony D. Adding texture Answer: B. Melodic accompaniment
  7. In African music, which type of instruments are commonly used in traditional dances? A. Chordophones B. Idiophones C. Membranophones D. Aerophones Answer: B. Idiophones
  8. Which of the following is a characteristic of chordophones instruments? A. They produce sound through vibrating membranes B. They produce sound through vibrating strings C. They produce sound through being struck D. They produce sound through breath vibration Answer: B. They produce sound through vibrating strings
  9. What is the main role of idiophones in African music? A. Providing harmony B. Creating melody C. Adding texture D. Providing rhythm Answer: D. Providing rhythm

Recommended Books

Past Questions

Wondering what past questions for this topic looks like? Here are a number of questions about Instruments from previous years

Question 1 Report

Which of the following instruments are aerophones?

Practice a number of Instruments past questions