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L. Pescador, 1995






Mangbetu Harp

Congo, Uele region.

l. cm 72. wood, leather, strings.

(Private collection, Modena)



Collected by Catholic missionary priests in the early 1900s, this type of harp, used by the Mangbetu, Nzakara and Azande people among others, is passed down from generation to generation with great care.

It is thought that no Mangbetu harps had arrived in the West prior to the twentieth century, and it is likely that the oldest were manufactured by Barambo, based on an Azande model where a small carved head at the top of the handle depicts a characteristic Mangbetu hairstyle.


The harp’s music accompanies the voice which relies on the iterative  melody of the instrument. The words of the poet-singer-performer may be accompanied by two other harps and even xylophones, drums and flutes.

The harp can very easily fall out of tune, and can also be tuned in various ways according to the different types of song.



Bibliography (incomplete)

Brincard M.-T., Afriques formes sonores, Paris, 1990.

Chauvet S., Musique nègre, Paris, 1929.

Dampierre E., Harpes Zande, Paris, 1992.

Bruguière, Speranza, La parole du fleuve, Paris, 1999.