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Madagascar News Forums The Transformation of Antananarivo Reply To: The Transformation of Antananarivo


The Malagasy, have their own musical instruments, but they are limited in number, as specified by certain connoisseurs, like Marie-Robert Rason, organist, master chapel of the Cathedral of Antananarivo in the 1950s. Category of wind instruments, they cite the “sodina”, a kind of flute, and the marine conch; By way of string instruments, there is the “lokanga voatavo” and the “valiha” although it seems that it is of Asian origin; And in the percussion instruments there are the lamako, the hazolahy, the drum and the bass drum.
The “sodina” is still today, an instrument very widespread throughout the island, but it is especially honored by the Betsileo and the Sakalava. It consists of a reed about 30 to 40cm long, open at both ends and pierced with eight holes that correspond to the eight notes of the range. It differs from the European flute in that it has no hole
Lateral opening forming a mouth and being open at both ends. “In order to play it, the artist swells his left cheek, almost entirely surrounds his lips with a piece of pipe, so as to leave uncovered only a very short interval by which the breath penetrates. The sodina player always gets a laugh from the Europeans as much by the strangeness of the sounds he pulls as by the deformation of his face. “
The marine conch is simply a large seashell pierced. It is a strong instrument in vogue and plays the role of bell. The raucous and lugubrious sound that comes out of it is heard very far. “Prolonged, he announces a happy event, short and precipitous, a calamity
Fire, or flood. “
The “lokanga voatavo” or Malagasy violin consists of three strings of raffia strongly rolled and fixed to the two ends of a board 2cm wide and 40 to 45 cm long. One of the ends of the planchette carries half a well-dried calabash, which serves as a resonance box. “Empty, the three strings give the dominant as bass and as medium, the tonic and the mediante. To get the intermediate notes, you have to press the fingers of the left hand on the strings. Bow point, because the “lokanga voatavo” is played “exclusively pizzicato” with the right hand. It is not a perfect instrument, but “the picturesque stories that the player of lokanga voatavo sings by accompanying him, are worth to the listeners of frank successes”.
The “valiha” is to the Malagasy, according to Marie-Robert Rason, what the guitar is to the Spaniards. It is the most widely used Malagasy instrument. It consists of a large bamboo that must be fetched very far, in the great forests. In general, it is 5 to 8cm in diameter and 1m20 to 1m50 in length. The nodes must be 40 to 60 cm apart to form the soundboard. The two internal partitions preserved for this purpose stop the fibers spaced about one centimeter apart, which is cut with a knife in the direction of the length. These fibers will be the strings that will vibrate. They are retained by a fine but very solid creeper (vahy), wound five or six times at both ends. To obtain the musical scale, parts of pumpkin, dry and rectangular, serve as movable easels. In this way, the tuning of the instrument is easy.
“The valiha must be played on an empty trunk or on a crate so that the naturally weak and slender sound has more depth and breadth. Towards the middle of the last century, many Malagasies substituted mandolin or guitar strings for bamboo fibers. “There are some who have managed to make a sort of zither whose sound is evidently superior to that of the valiha. “
The “lamako”, beef jaws, is mainly used by night watchers of the Queen in Imerina, to accompany their songs while all sleep. The noise produced by the clash of these jaws against each other invites us to sleep. “The lamako no longer exists today. “
The purely Malagasy percussion instrument is the “hazolahy”. It is a truncated wooden trunk, the two ends of which are covered with the skins of oxen. This instrument is beaten either on either side with a piece of wood or with the hand. “The sound is sharp. “
Finally, the drum (“langoraony”) and the bass drum (“ampongabe”) are done in the same way as those of Europe, but much more roughly. “The skin used for their manufacture is that of sheep or goats. Used in almost every holiday, it has become commonplace. “