Traditional Igbo musical instruments


NIGERIA is blessed with amazing traditions, culture and languages. The country is divided into three major ethnic groups, the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.

Music and festivities is an integral part of Igbo lifestyle especially during weddings, child-naming, chieftaincy coronation and festivals. The traditional Igbo songs and musical presentations incorporate percussion instruments and flutes. The sound instruments include the hollow log- ekwe, udu, ogene, ichaka, oja among others.

The udu is a percussion instrument made from a water jug. Artisans cut a hole in the side of the jug which produces a unique brass sound when a hand is placed over the top opening.
Ogene is a struck idiophone instrument which produces a loud sharp sound. The large metal bell gong has immense significance in Igbo music.

The instrument is hollow with a flat conical shape and struck with a stick. The iron body and wooden stick provides a distinctive sound common to ethnic Igbo music.

READ MORE:  Music, life’s tonic

Oja- It is basically a small wood with an inner cavity placed on the lower lips. The musician controls the pitch and tone of the instrument by manipulating the thumb and ring finger over small holes in the instrument sound that is enticing and entertaining. It is a lead instrument that accompanies the drums. It produces a high pitched shrill sound that conveys meaning to the entire performance.

Igbo rattle (ichaka)– it is a delightful looking rattle instrument. It is made out of a calabash or gourd. The sound it produces is due to beads sewn to a net around the instrument, the instrument is played by shaking the gourd or tapping the beads.

Ubo thumb piano– This is another musical instrument of note in Igbo music. The instrument has a wooden gourd resonator and metal cuffs for each key. The instrumentalist plays the piano with his finger or thumbs.
Horn instrument- It is generally harvested from dead elephants, buffalo, goat deer and ram.

READ MORE:  Music, life’s tonic

Odu-okike is a hallowed elephant tusk made into a wind instrument. The horn has deep traditional significance and used only by the titled men in Igbo land. The large instrument symbolises authority, prestige, wealth and power. Only aristocrats and title holders are allowed to blow the odu-okike horn.
The horn is blown only on important festive occasions such as burial rites of a titled man or marriage between Igbo aristocrats. Other occasions include ofala festival and chieftaincy installations.

Eneke horn- It is a horn harvested from different types of animal. The horn have diverse applications such as notification of events and music renditions.

Egede drum- It is carved from a hollow log and a membrane is stretch over the opening. Musicians play the drum with a stick to produce melodious tunes. It takes several years for the drummer to master the craft.
The pot drum– This features a bell shaped drum that resonate a low-deep pitched occasional by rapid bursts of sound. Any change in tone depends on the amount of water inside the pot drum.

READ MORE:  Music, life’s tonic

The slit drum- The small slit drum consists of two horizontal slits and produces a distinctively hollow sound.
The iroko– It is a large slit drum vigorously played with two sticks. It takes tremendous efforts and consists pounding to produce sound. Iroko is used to convey urgent messages to villagers. It is not generally used in musical performance but to convey messages such as death or war.

Igba drum- The igba drum is used to herald the arrival of masquerades into the community. It is used as accompanying instrument. The versatile drum is played with fingers and a stick. It is made from hardwood and has an animal skin membrane.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here