Names of Igbo Traditional Musical Instruments
Musical instruments are instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds, In Igbo Land Musical instruments are not only used for making music, they are also used to communicate to both man and spirit, translating and emitting daily experiences and events. Below are Types and Names Of Igbo Musical Instruments.
1. Opi/Oja: Opi also called Oja is the soul of Igbo music.. The only instrument that speaks to to gods, calms down a angry spirit, uplift and gives courage and strength to the weak. The Oja is a flute mainly used by the Igbos. Oja which is one of the most important Igbo musical instrument is made out of wood and are carved into different shapes and length. In some part of Igbo land Oja is believe to choose and speak to its master. Aside from the general Oja masters(ogbuoja) who performs and entertain people at a festival, Most Oja Masters are assigned to Kings, Very reverend Masquerade and a hero of a community, most especially a Warriors. The Ojamaster blows through the mouth hole and the sound is made by the fingers stopping the hole in the side of the instrument. The masquerade dance in igbo land is not complete without the Oja.
2. Ikolo/Ikoro: Ikoro, The voice of the gods.. The most revered and respected musical instrument In igbo Land. In Igbo land, when the Ikoro calls, everything stops. The Ikoro is the most revered musical instrument used by the Igbo of Nigeria. The Ikoro is a large slit drum used in Igbo land for communication. In Igbo land, Ikoro brings a sense of urgency and can not be beaten by everybody. It is very important that any time the Ikoro sound is heard people gather at the village square. As soon as it sounds, people around assume that any of the following has happened: land has been defiled, there is outbreak of war, a calamity has befallen the community etc. The inevitable thing that happens any time the Ikoro call is heard, is that people must gather at the village square to hear the latest development. The difference between Ikoro and Ekwe is the size, unlike Ekwe, Ikoro is stationally and can not be played by anyone, Women can not play the Ikoro why oku Ekwe can either be a woman or a man. Ekwe is small in size and portable while Ikoro is enormous in size, cannot be carried by one person and is never carried from place to place. Ikoro is kept in a fixed place usually at the village square. Currently, the oldest Ikoro In Igbo Land is about 260 years old.
3. Ogene: In Igbo land Ogene is said to be one of the few musical instruments to invoke the ancestors. The ogene is a struck idiophone instrument which produces a loud sharp sound, The Ogene is commonly used as a “master instrument” in Igboland. Ogene has immense significance in igbo music as the beat of a good Ogene penetrates the soul especially if accompanied with a melancholic music. Ogene is used in many form of music in Igbo land but to fully enjoy the melodious tone of ogene, one has to listen to ogene music. Ogene is also used to make announcement or pass information in the community by town criers or organization PRO’s. Onege are designed in two way, the single ogene and the double ogene called ”Ogene Mkpi Abua” or Ogene Mkpi Na Abo”.
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4. Ekwe: Ekwe (Slit-drum) is a tree trunk, hollowed throughout its length from two rectangular cavities at its ends and a horizontal slit that connects the cavities. The size of the slit-drum depends on its use and significance. Its significance includes use as musical instrument at coronation, cultural events and rituals. The different sounds of the drum summon the citizens at the monarch’s palaces, or town squares. The strong rhythm of the slit-drum, gave special signals for inundation, meetings, announcements of fire, theft and other emergencies.
5. Igba: Igba (Cylinder-drum) is a piece of hollow wood covered at one end with animal hide held down tight with fasteners. The artist carries it over his shoulder with the help of a shoulder strap. The artist produces the sound by beating on the animal hide with his fingers or combination of one set of fingers and a special stick. The cylinder-drum accompanies dances, songs, religious and secular ceremonies, and it’s tunes have been known to give special signals for good news as well as bad news. Igba comes with different name depending on the size.
Also See: Top 10 most popular traditional dance in Igbo land
6. Ogidi: Ogidi(Long Igba) is a piece of hollow wood covered at one end with animal hide held down tight with fasteners. The artist carries it over his shoulder with the help of a shoulder strap. Ogidi which is also know as Nne Igba, Igba Eze/Igba ndi Eze is the longest Igba mostly used to play Akunache Anyi Music.
7. Abia: These drums often accompany many other instruments. Traditionally, the deeper shelled Igba are played with the hand, while the shorter drums are played with a curved stick. In an ensemble these drums often lead, and are used to “talk” by the talking drummers. To tune the drum, the player will use a strong object to whack the pegs around the drum in order to restore its best tone. Unlike the Igba, Abia are usually between two to four and mostly play in a masquerade even or dance festival.
8. Ichaka: The Ichaka 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 it. Ichaka is usually made in two types. The calabash Ichaka and Ichaka Ube.
9. Udu: Udu is a traditional Igbo music instrument mainly played by Igbo women and they are i two types. The Udu which is a percussion instrument is 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. The hand manipulations, skill and dexterity of the instrumentalist produce different brass tones. The larger udu is played by hand using a leather shaped like a hand-fan. While the smaller udu is played just with hands. The player produces a bass sound by quickly hitting the big hole. There are many ways that the pitches can be changed, depending on how the hand above the small upper hole is positioned. Today it is widely used by percussionists in different music styles.
10. Osha/Oyo: Oyo is a percussion instrument consisting of a closed basket with a flat bottom filled with seeds or other small particles. The round bottom is traditionally cut from a dried gourd. Oyo is an indirectly struck idiophone. In Igbo Land the Oyo is played alongside the Abia, Igba Ekwe and others.
Also See: Ten most popular traditional festival celebrated in Igbo land. and List of Traditional Festivals celebrated in Igbo Land
11. Nkonko: Nkonko also known as Ekwe nta or Ekwe Aka is an igbo musical instrument caved from the wood, Nkonko is a smaller Ekwe can can be played just with one hand.
12. Alo: Just like the ogene, Alo is a struck idiophone instrument which produces a loud sharp sound. Alo which is a large metal bell gong has immense significance in igbo music.
13. Okike: Okiki is the most prominent and classy and rare Igbo musical instrument. The Okike is made out of a elephant tusk and it is used mainly by an ozo or Nze. Okike is only used on an occasion that symbolizes wealth and power. It is used during installations into Ọzọ or Nze titleships, Ofala and major festivals. Also it is used during the performance of mortuary rites of titled men and women as well as traditional wedding ceremonies of Igbo aristocrats. It can be blown in solo as well as in group performance. The sound of okike denotes festivity and social actualization. The Igba-eze dance most often is accompanied with the blowing of okike when the Igwe of a town is performing the ofala, kings’ festivals in Igbo.
14. Ubo Aka: Ubo aka (thumb piano) is an igbo musical instrument more popular during the olden day although still used today. The instrument has a wooden gourd resonator and metal cuffs for each key. The instrumentalist plays the piano with his fingers or thumbs. Ubo Aka, which is an 8 keyed lamellaphone from the Igbo in Nigeria is built into half of a conical calabash and the keys are held to a wooden soundboard by copper wire. The soundboard is nailed to the top of the calabash, which acts as a resonator for the keys. The soundboard has two carved holes on either side of the keys for the musician to hold the instrument and to enable them to strike the keys with both thumbs.
15. Ubo: Ubo is an Igbo musical instrument like that of a string guitar with Several cane stalks bound together. The strings are made by raising the hard part of the canes on both sides. The front strings are played while the back strings act as resonators. Ubo, Just like Ubo Akwara is rarely used these days.
Also See: 25 Most Popular Igbo Masquerades
16. Ubo Akwala: Ubo Akwala(Akwara) is string musical instrument like that of Hammered dulcimer. Although not that popular anymore and rarely used. Ubo Akwala Which is a percussion-stringed instrument consists of strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonant sound board. Ubo Akwara mostly played by one or two persons is set before the musician who sits on the floor to play the instrument.
17. Ikpa or Oge: This is a musical instrument used by the Igbos, it is mostly played by two people. The music instrument is made from wooden plank or banana tree that are loosely bound by strings.
18. Ekpiri: Ekpiri is a type of percussion instrument used by the Igbo which produces a sound when shaken. Ekpiri is mostly used my masquerade groups and its in two types. While one is held in the hand, the other is worn in the ankle
19. Mgbirimgba: Mgbirimgba is a musical instrument worn in the ankle, it sounds comes from the movement of the body while the dance is going on.
20. Enenke: Eneke just okike is a rare musical instrument. the Eneke is mostly used by high class and tilted men in Igbo land. Eneke just like the okike and odu mkpalo are all made from animal horns.
21. Ọdu-mkpalọ: Ọdu-mkpala-alọ is a short form of okike which must be held by the Igbo Ọzọ titled man. Unlike the okike which is heavy and long, odu-mkpa-alọ is held constantly on any occasion, be it marriage, death or a town gathering. It is associated with the red cap and eagle feathers for the ọzọ man and must be exhibited always for social recognition. Most of the time the holders are not experts in blowing it, but they need to hold it as occasion warrants.
22. une: This instrument looks like a hunter’s bow. It is played with one end of the string in the mouth which acts as resonator, a cane or metal beater used to produce sound, and a short stick of soft wood used to very sound.
20 thoughts on “Names of Igbo Traditional Musical Instruments”
Thank you for sharing all these neat instruments! I like the Ichaka, I’ll have to look up a video to see how it sounds.
I want to know how those instruments sound. First time I’ve heard about those instruments but they look really interesting
Okike or Odu Okike is not a musical instrument. This is misleading and could be interpreted to a large degree as a deliberate ploy to further reduce the importance and use of Igbo traditional and cultural instruments.
This is something new I came to know about. Thanks for sharing information and names of traditional musical instruments.
playing Music instrument is one of my favorite hobby and these native instrument sounds interesting I need to check this out!
I love that they have so many different musical instruments there. So many varied sounds and such a rich amount of ways to make them. Very beautiful.
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I never know about all these things as a child even to my Adult age but seeing it here have given me the best experience and open my eyes and mind to research more about my land as an IGBO .
thank you so much
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Thank you for reminding me the names of these wonderful instrument we use during block rosary carol
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