Listen to valiha music, official instruments of Madagascar


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/09/listen-to-valiha-music-offici.html


#2

Manao ahoana tompoko!

Lived in Madagascar for a year and this sound pulls on my heartstrings, pun intended. Beautiful people, gorgeous music.


#3

Paddy Bush played one on his sister Kate’s track “Love and Anger”. Beautiful, ethereal sound.


#4

I’ve been fooling around with my own variations of the valiha. First one made of a cardboard tube with screws to adjust the pitch rather than the individual bridges the traditional instrument uses. Then I made one out of a plastic tube and flanged screws with a hole in the flange usually used for hanging drop ceilings or insulation. The model I play most now is much smaller, made from a cylindrical cookie tin, capped at both ends with a 2x4 wooden disk with brass screws I drilled holes in to take the traditional string material, unraveled bicycle brake cable, that I can tune with a screwdriver or a dime, as I made sure it would fit the slot in the heads of the screws. It’s not very loud but I can cup it in my palms and play to my heart’s content. An acquaintance who works on organs keeps threatening to give me a length of organ pipe to make another one but I am not holding my breath.

My understanding is that the tuning is a bass F and then to the immediate right C and to the immediate left C# proceeding on both sides up a whole step between each string. I have 15 strings on my reconfigured valiha which gives me an octave plus an extra C#.

It’s a lovely little instrument.

There are also box valiahas which you put on the floor and play seated. Some, I have read, can have as many as 36 strings. I haven’t made one of those. Yet.

Recollecting from the Past: Musical Practice and Spirit Possession on the East Coast of Madagascar by Ron Emoff is a good book about the Malagasy music tradition and the CD series A World Out Of Time, Malagasy music collected by Henry Kaiser & David Lindley is a great introduction. My own introduction to the valiha was an album I found in the International section of a record store probably in 1973 which I bought simply because of the cover photograph of this instrument I’d never seen before: Folklore de Madagascar by the group Ny Antsaly with arrangements by the valiha master Sylvestre Randafison (look him up on Youtube). I still love the music on that record and, perhaps, someday will learn how to play it on my own version of the valiha.


#5

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