Percussion Friends and Relatives


TheThe Chinese have a wooden drum they call a mu-yu ("wooden fish"). It is round and hollow, like a temple block.

The Hawaiians make a drum called a pahu hula ("dance drum"). They make it by hollowing out a log and stretching shark skin over the end. They also make a coconut-shell knee drum called a puniu, also with a fish-skin head. The drum is attached to the player's leg and is played with a little strap made from braided leaves.


In China, there is a gong chime called a yun-lo, or "cloud gong," It is a lattice frame with ten different small gongs suspended within it.


The Indonesian gamelan orchestras often feature a xylophone called a gambang. In Java, gambangs are made of wood, and in Bali, they are made of bamboo.

In the small West African nation of Gambia, musicians play a xylophone with resonators made from gourds. It is called a balo or balafon.


In Uganda,the people play a great big xylophone made from big pieces of wood laid across banana tree trunks, or sometimes across big bundles of straw. This instrument is called an akadinda. It is often played by several players at once.

And . . .

An interesting percussion instrument is made from a turtle shell by Indians in the Andean region of Colombia. A piece of resin is fastened to one end of a turtle shell and then is vigorously rubbed. This makes a sound that is amplified by the curve of the turtle shell.

The Yodelers in Switzerland sometimes accompany their singing by shaking enormous cowbells!


The Mandinka people of Gambia, a tiny West African nation, play a large arched harp called a bolon. In ancient times, the bolon was an instrument of war, but now it is used mostly to accompany singing.

In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, now a free state, there is a small angle harp called a changui. It is one of the oldest surviving string instruments, and it has from six to nine strings.

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1999 New York Philharmonic