Africa ATLAS of Plucked Instruments

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Africa

Africa is not well known for its ethnic stringed instruments. Probably the most famous one is the KORA, but that is a kind of "harp", (see notincluded).
However there are quite a few instruments that are "guitar-like".
In North Africa you can find several types of lute.

This page is here divided in West Africa, Southern Africa, Madagascar, East Africa and North Africa.

For the Canary Islands and Cape Verde see West Europe.

 

example : from cassette of Ali Farka Touré
You Tube
Touré (jr)
You Tube
soukous guitar
You Tube
home made guitar
african guitar 

In Africa the (Spanish or Western) guitar is now probably the most played plucked instrument, often the electric version. To most ears a quite pleasing twanging sound is produced, in often very danceable rhythms.

Apparently not many guitars were made locally in Africa, as most photos of African players (even the older ones) show (cheap) western (or Far Eastern) made instruments.

The real home-made instruments (with 3, 4, 5 or 6 strings, made of bicycle brake wire) often use an open tuning.

Guitar playing techniques are often based on ngoni playing : with alternating thumb and right hand fingers in lute-style (stretched forefinger) and sometimes rhythmic tapping on the front. Typical African is the use of repeating riffs, and hardly any strumming. Occasionally some odd tuning is used, like tuning up the low E string to G, or replacing the d string for a d'.

Some of the most famous African guitar players come from Mali : Ali Farka Touré, Habib Koita and Djelimady Tounkara.

On a recent trip through Malawi and Zambia (2006), we encountered several home-made instruments, fabricated from all kinds of materials (see also the ramkie furtheron), and often using unravelled bicycle brake wire for strings.
The CD "Zambia Roadside" (featuring some examples of this kind of guitar) mentions that these instruments are locally called "banjos".

Home-made guitar, seen in Lilongwe (Malawi) 2006,
with the entire body made from zinc (so quite heavy) with 4 unravelled brake wires as strings and no frets.

In early 1999 during a tour of Mali we visited the home village of Ali Farka Touré : Niafounke, a small place along the river Niger. Pity he was not home, but we slept (in a tent) on the (flat) roof of his house, and saw some of his guitars.

   
top Southern Africa
ramkie
example : bought in Kalahari desert, Botswana 2003
L=850 B=180 H=120mm
scale 590mm
You Tube
You Tube
oil can guitar electric
ramkie

The ramkie is the famous "blik kitaar" from Southern Africa; a home made guitar, using an empty oil-can for the body.

The wooden neck is sometimes stuck all the way through the can; sometimes it is fixed to a wooden "lid" on the top. The frets are made from U-shaped pieces of wire stuck in the front of the neck. The kind of capodastre construction is usually just an upside-down "bridge" and can not be moved.

The 4 to 6 strings (if not of nylon fishline) are made of unravelled bicycle brake wire. Usually an open tuning is used, like c f a c'.

The ramkie is mainly found in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Malawi.

Quite recently a modern, electric version of the ramkie (also available in USA and Europe) with a proper professional neck is factory-made in Capetown by African Oil Can Guitars : Townshipguitars.

For more information about the history of the ramkie : Guitarfoundation (in German).

left:
a "bass ramkie" , made from an empty plastic container; instead of frets, a piece of wood was used to shorten the (fish line) string. It was used in a group with an oilcan ramkie.
(seen in Malawi, 2006)

right:
a souvenir ramkie, painted in African colours, with 4 nylon strings;
bought in Capetown, 2003.

   
  top West and Central Africa
ngoni
example : bought in Bamako, Mali 1998
L=730 B=130 H=90mm
scale 270-580mm
You Tube
ngoni Mali
xalam
example : bought in Dakar, Senegal 2012
L=670 B=160 H=90mm
scale 245-510mm
You Tube
xalam Gambia
ngoni

The typical African lute-like instruments are all basically of the same construction, whatever the name (like ngoni, or hajhuj, or gunbri) : a wooden bowl, covered with a hide, with a round stick as neck that has on the end tuning "pegs". The other side of the stick goes through a hole in the hide, where the bridge rests on the stick, and the strings are fixed to the end of it. A similar type of instrument was already found in the time of the Pharaos.

In Central and West Africa you can find this widely used type : the ngoni. Alternative names for it are : hoddu, tidinit, xalam, khalam, kontingo, koni, molo, konde, gaaci, ganbare, tehardent (with the Tuareg), etc.
The name depends usually more on the area it is used, than on a difference in appearence. It is mainly found in countries like : Mali, Senegal, Mauretania, etc.

Although it has many different names, basically it is always a very similar instrument.
The body is a hollowed-out carved wooden bowl, with a hide stretched over the front. The leather covering of the front is often glued onto the edge of the bowl, with wooden or metal pins around the edge to strengthen the join. A short round wooden (broom)stick is used as neck and stuck in the body through the hide, untill halfway the bowl.

The (usually 4, nylon) strings are fastened to leather hoops around the neck and tuned by moving those up and down the neck (although this seems primitive - you even have to lick the leather hoops to make them stick - the tuning stays put amazingly well).

At the other end the strings are fixed with knots to the end of the broomstick, which sticks through a small hole in the leather front. The 2 middle strings are almost full length, the shorter outer strings serve as a kind of drone (like the 5-string banjo). Some ngoni are nowadays electric. Others have more strings.

Amazingly these rather primitive looking instruments can be played quite virtuously. Only the two middle longer strings are fingered, the rest are picked open. Playing is in a kind of banjo-style (including frailing) without plectrum.

For more information on ngoni see Coraconnection .

7 stringed ngoni (electric)
tidinit type ngoni (electric)
 top  
akonting
example : picture from website Ulf
L=~1200mm
You Tube
akonting

The akonting is a kind of large ngoni from the Senegal/Gambia area. It is apparently now quite rare. The Jola call it akonting and the Manjak bunchundo. There is quite some similarity with the large version of the molo of Ghana (see under).

The akonting has a large round body, made from a gourd of about 0.35m diameter. The skin is goat, fixed to the gourd with nails along the edge.
The neck (about 1.20m long) is a bamboo papyrus broomstick that pierces the body. The (nylon) strings are tunable with leather hoops and run over a loose heavy bridge on the skin, to the end of the broomstick.

It is played with clawhammer technique, in repeated riffs to accompany songs.

picture from website Ragtime.nu
 top  
molo
example :
bought via eBay 2013
L=515 B=120 H=95mm
scale 380mm
You Tube
molo

The molo is a kind of ngoni from Ghana. It is similar to the gurumi (or gouroumi or gurmi) of the Niger area. The larger ones may look like an akonting (see above).

The molo has a small round body, made from a gourd, or from a piece of hollowed out wood, of about 0.10 - 0.20m diameter. The skin is often goat, fixed to the body by nails along the edge. The neck (about 0.50 - 1.00m long) is a "broomstick" that pierces the body.

There are usually 2 (metal or nylon) strings, tunable with leather hoops (like the ngoni). They run over a loose heavy wooden bridge on the skin, to the end of the broomstick.

The molo is played with clawhammer technique, in repeated simple riffs to accompany songs.


Left : Malam Maman Barka, gurumi master
(from website Beautysaloonmusic.com)
   
 

L=~1500mm
You Tube
karindula sessions
You Tube
another group
You Tube
the small banjo
karindula


The karindula is a large bass instrument, used in the Karindula music in South East Congo (or Kalindula music in Zambia).

The music is called after its main instrument, the karindula : a kind of huge banjo, with the body made out of an oil barrel. The barrel is covered with a goat skin, and a long piece of wood (not round) is stuck through the barrel to serve as neck and tuning head.

The 4 thick strings can be tuned with friction pegs from behind, and run over a loose wooden bridge on the skin, to some pin at the bottom of the barrel. A piece of cardboard is put under the strings halfway the neck (near the nut), to get a buzzing tone.

example :
picture from website

Usually the karindula player sits on the barrel and strums the strings with the right hand. He only rarely stops the strings with his left hand, mainly with his thumb.

The karindula group also includes another banjo-like instrument, which looks like a small (3 string) karindula, which seems called : banjo.

For more information see : crammed.be.

   
top East Africa
gabusi / kibangala
example : picture from website about Famau Mohamed, photo by Werner Graebner
L=800 B=180 H=110mm
scale ~550mm

kibangala / gabusi

In East Africa still exists here and there a small lute-like instrument, called kibangala on the Swahili coast, gabusi on the Comoros (see under), qabus in Saudi Arabia, gabbus in Oman or qanbus in the Yemen (see Middle East). It is replaced now almost everywhere by the much larger Arabian oud. It may have been the eldest of the lutes.

The body and neck are quite small and carved from one piece of wood. The lower part of the body is hollowed out, and covered with hide. It has a sickle-shaped pegbox, usually ending in a square to the front, with friction pegs on both sides. It has no frets. The strings run over a loose bridge on the skin to a quite large peg-like extension at the end of the body. It has 4-8 gut/nylon strings in 4 courses and is played with a plectrum.

This instrument has travelled centuries ago with the Arab sailors (just like the Oud) all the way to South East Asia, where the gambus is still played in Sabah and Brunei.

The example kibangala is a reconstruction, made by Athman Hussein for Werner Graebner, and played by Zein l'Abdin from Kenya.

I tried in vain in 1988 to find a qanbus in San'a in the Yemen - they only had ouds.


left : part of a blue print plan from the Guild of American Luthiers Instrument Plans GAL .

   
 top Madagascar
kabosy
example : bought in Madagascar from a street boy in Fiarantsoa, 1988
L=700 B=250 H=50mm
scale 410mm
You Tube
kabosy
example :
bought from Ocean-Produits.com 2011
L=800 B=240 H=75mm
scale 510mm
You Tube
kabosy

Madagascar is most famous for its valiha, which is in fact a tube zither (made of a piece of bamboo tube), and played very similar to the African kora, with hands from both sides, and the notes alternating left and right.

Besides the normal Spanish guitar, this small "guitar" called kabosy (or kabosa), is very popular. It is often made of a quite primitive construction (from scrap materials), but it has a very powerful sound. Notice that the name is quite close to the gabusi lute (see under), but that the instrument is quite different. In southwest Madagascar it is called mandoliny.

The kabosy is made like a guitar, but the body shape can be various: most often it is rectangular, but it could be like a guitar, like a mandolin, etc. Modern "professional" ones tend to be rectangular. The neck is fixed to the body and has a separate, thin fingerboard. The sound hole is usually round, like on a guitar.
The cheaper versions are often painted in a red and/or orange colour (which is probably shoe polish); the more "expensive" ones maybe varnished.

Bits of metal wire are used as frets and only under the strings where they are necessary for the normally played songs. The layout of these frets is different from the 17th century European cittern, which is the only other instrument with partial frets.

The tuning head is usually flat, with friction tuners from behind. In general there are 4 courses of metal strings, which are made from unraveled bicycle brake cables. The courses can be double or single. The bass string maybe made of three wires twisted together. The large instruments often have only one thick bass string. The strings run over a loose wooden bridge to a (metal) stringholder, fixed to the bottom of the body.
Tuning is usually in open C : c c' e'(e') g'(g'), but many others are in use. Often the two lowest strings are tuned similar (no octave).

The kabosy is played strumming with a plectrum, in typical Malagasy complicated poly-rhythms, like (6+6)/12, or a steady 4 beat with the kabosy strummed in fast triplets. It is often played in groups with several instruments in different sizes and with 1, 2, 3, or 4 strings.

The mandoliny has usually fish-net nylon strings, and only a few frets (over the full width of the fingerboard), which can be shifted to fit the song. The body of the mandoliny may be carved from one piece of wood, in a fancy shape, like a large fish or a transistor radio.

 top  
lokango voatavo
example : bought in Madagascar from souvenir stall in Antananarivo 1988
L=550mm
You Tube
a dzendze ya shitsuva from the Comoros
lokango voatavo

This is a small primitive lute/guitar from Madagascar. It can also be found on the main land of Africa as tzetze or zeze, or as dzendzé ya shitsuva on the Comoros islands.

It is made from a gourd, with a black painted wooden stick attached to it. It has 3 wire strings and three "frets", carved out of the stick.

The lokango voatavo is not often played anymore. I have not seen or heard anyone playing this instrument.

   
top Comoros
gabusi 1
example : made by Kolo Hassani, bought via friend in Mahore, 2010
L=770 B=180 H=75mm
scale = 480mm
You Tube
You Tube
the maker Kolo Hassani

gabusi 2
example : picture from kind visitor of ATLAS
L=~600mm
You Tube
gabusi

This is the gabusi (in French : gaboussi) from the Comoros Islands.

There are two main designs of gabusi :

The first type is very close to the Swahili kibangala (see above), except that it looks far more primitive and rustic. It is still widely used on Anjouan Island and on Mayotte / Mahore (French Comoros).

The entire instrument is carved out of a single piece of wood. The body and the neck is hollowed. The general shape is that of half a long peach. The larger part of the body is covered with goat skin, which is glued and nailed around the soundbox.
There is a small soundhole in the middle of the skin. The neck is covered with a thin piece of wood and fretless. The entire instrument is left unvarnished.

The tuning head is straight and open, and does not have the characteristic sickle shape of the qanbus family, but the top end sticks out a bit. There are 3 handcut friction pegs on both sides.

The six nylon strings are arranged in four courses and run over a loose wooden bridge to 4 nails at the end of the body.
Tuning would be something like : D g bb dd.


The second type looks even more primitive and rustic. This type is mainly used on Moheli Island and on Mayotte.

This type is also made from one piece of wood, with a hollow neck. However, the body is not pear-shaped, but quite small and square.
The tuning head is flat, and the strings go over the top nut through a hole to the back of the tuning head. It has small friction pegs on both sides.

This type of gabusi has usually only three or four single fishing line strings, though double strings can be found.
Tuning would be something like : (D) g b d.

Playing the gabusi is mainly strumming, with a plectrum or with the fingers.

The gabusi is very often paired with the mkayamba, a raft-shaped shaker. In Mayotte (French Comoros) it is widely used in M'godro music, a kind of dance music which is very influenced by Madagascan music, hence the gabusi player usually performs short cyclic patterns involving only two or three basic chords.


For lots of information about the different cordophones on the Comoros (especially on Mahore / Mayotte), see Mahorais and Gaboussi.blogspot (both in French).



top North Africa
hajhuj / sentir
example : bought in Chefchaouen, Morocco 1994
L=1060 B=210 H=110mm
scale 750/670/470mm
You Tube
hajhuj / sentir

The hajhuj (or hajhouj) is often played by the Berbers and the Touaregs of the Sahara and it can thus be found both in the north (Morocco) as in the south (Mali) of the desert. Sometimes the name sentir (or sintir) is used for this instrument, and also gimbri, gumbri or guembri, or gunbri or gunibri (but see also the instruments furtheron).

The hajhuj is basically similar to the ngoni, but it is much bigger and usually has a square (or almost square) body outline, with a half-cylinder or bowl shape back. The 3 thick coloured nylon strings (almost like washing line) are fixed to nylon loops around the wooden "broomstick" neck and can be tuned by moving those up and down the neck.

On the top of the neck is often a brass device with rings, to add extra jingling effects to the sound. Many of the hajhuj are decorated, (like in the example with pink painting), or with shiny nails around the edge of the body to fix the skin.

The hajhuj is played in Gnawa music, as a kind of bass instrument in a frailing banjo style (picking with the nails downwards), with usually only the longest (bottom) string fingered, the others are played open as drones.

top

 

gunbri
example : bought in London, RayMan Musicshop, 1980
L=830 B=250 H=110mm
scale 530mm
You Tube
a loutar
gunbri

The gunbri is another popular lute North of the Sahara, played mainly by the Berbers and Rwais tribes in Morocco. Other names are guimbri, guembri, gembri, gimbri, gambre, gombri - and in some regions loutar (see furtheron).

The body is a rounded piece of wood hollowed out, with a (goat) skin glued over the front. A thick round neck goes all the way through the body. The neck and the tuning pegs are turned on a lathe. The wood is usually left plain.

The 4 silk or nylon strings run over a loose wooden bridge and are fastened to the end of the round neck stick, through a small hole in the skin.

The gunbri is usually played with the fingers. An extra hoop is tied around the neck to serve as "nut", giving all the strings the same scale length. However like on the ngoni, usually only the 2 middle strings are fingered.

A smaller version of the gunbri is called swisdi or suissen and used in popular urban style of singing. A larger version, which is called loutar (or lotar - see under), is used in the Middle Atlas region by the Amazigh imdyazn (bards).

 

For more information about North African instruments : Banjoancestors.


The example gunbri is quite decorated (which is rare) as it is painted red (even the skin is coloured), and it has a nice (painted) decoration on the back.

top

 

gunibri
example : from friends (bought as souvenir in Morocco)
L=510 B=120 H=70mm
scale 290mm
gunibri

The gunibri is a small gunbri, with 3 nylon strings. There are several qualities.
The example has the back of the body made with a tortoise shell, and has quite a thick skin. It is called fakroun or fakrun (= "tortoise").
The body could also be made like the gunbri from hollowed out wood. The neck here is painted black, with scratches to reveal the wood underneath as decoration.

The better quality ones - resembling more the gunbri - are sometimes called suissen and used in a certain type of Moroccan classical music.

 

The back of the body of this fakroun is made of a tortoise.

top

 

lotar
example : bought in Meknes, Morocco 1994
L=490 B=100 H=50mm
scale 300mm
lotar

The lotar is another gunbri-like lute from the Rwais tribe in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

This type has 2, 3 or 4 nylon strings, with large round tuning pegs. The neck is turned on a lathe and usually painted with rings in bright colours - green, yellow, red and black. The body is made from a piece of wood, or a coconut, or any other bowl shaped object.

The lotar is usually played by a duo, which also includes a rebab, a one string spike fiddle.


There is another instrument called loutar (see under).

 

 

 

 

 


The example has the body made of a small empty (blue) plastic bowl.

top  

loutar
bought via Marktplaats.nl, 2012

L=1160 B=360 H=150mm
scale 680mm
You Tube
Amazigh loutar
loutar

This loutar is another lotar (or lutar or outar), used in the Middle Atlas region by the Amazigh imdyazn (bards).
This instrument is much larger (0.90 m or more), and is very similar to the gunbri.

The body is made from one piece of wood, hollowed out. A (goat) skin is streched over the open front, and glued around the edges, and is often also fixed with round-headed nails. The body shape is usually quite slender, but you may also see bodies that are quite wide on the bottom half.

The thick round neck is turned on a lath, to make some round shaped decorations at the end. The neck extends into the body to almost the end. Here the wood ends in 4 pointed "sticks" for fixing the strings.

The 4 tuning pegs are turned on a lath to make rounded decorations as grips. The pegs are fitted through a slanting row of holes drilled in the top of the neck. The strings (usually nowadays the 4 lower (nylon) strings of a guitar) run from the side of each peg under a round bounded "nut" (a piece of string), over a loose wooden bridge to a small hole cut in the skin, and fixed with loops to the pointed ends of the neck.

The tuning might be like the 4 lower strings of a guitar : E A d g.

The loutar is usually played like a kind of oud, and still seems quite popular, also to accompany singing.

loutar
example : bought via
leboncoin.fr, 2012
L=840 B=160 H=100mm
scale 440mm

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gumbri
example :
picture from website
CMAM.nat.tn

L=~1100 B=0 H=0mm
scale 0mm
You Tube
gumbri

This large gumbri (or gombri or gonbri) is used in the Stambeli Music, which is a trance ceremony, performed by descendants of the sub-Saharan slaves, still living in Tunesia.

The gumbri is made from a large drum (formerly a hollowed out piece of wood, nowadays often an empty can). On the front a (goat) skin is glued. The back is closed, but on the side is a hole, so the player can keep things inside the drum.

A round wooden stick is inserted all the way through the body, and 3 nylon strings are fixed to it with movable leather strips. One string is short and only used as a drone. The strings run over a large loose wooden bridge to be fixed at the bottom of the drum, to the end of the pole. A metal plate with many metal rings is inserted between the strings, between the bridge and the end. This device is meant to sound when the drum is struck. The drum and the skin are usually highly decorated.

The tuning of the thick nylon strings could be : c F' C.

The gumbri is usually played by the leader of the group ["sunna"], with a special way of picking the strings with the thumb and fingers, and hitting the skin as a drum. The left hand picks only a few notes, low on the neck.
The Stambeli trance ceremony is also accompanied by large metal castagnettes [shaqshaqa].


For much information about the Stambeli see : stambeli.com.

top  

gambara
example :
picture from website
CMAM.nat.tn

L=~950 B=0 H=0mm
scale 0mm
You Tube
nice film, see gambara: 5.30
gambara

This gambara (or gambra) is used in the Stambeli music, performed by descendants of the sub-Saharan slaves, still living in Tunesia. The name is the feminine form of gumbri. It is used more for entertainment than to accompany the trance ceremony - so it does not have the metal plate of the gumbri. It is mainly used in the area of Dar Bambara.

At first it seems (with the rectangular body shape) very smilar to the hadjhudj (or guembri) of the Gwana. However it is smaller (more like a ngoni) and the main difference is that the neck pole does not stop halfway the skin, but protrudes all the way through the body, and so the strings are not fixed through a hole in the skin, but at the bottom of the body to the end of the pole. The skin often has some holes cut in it, and there is (like the hadjhudj) usually decoration on the skin or on the body.

The tuning of the 3 nylon strings would be similar to the gumbri: c F' C.

The gambara is usually played like the gumbri, but it is hardly ever used anymore.

For much information about the Stambeli see : stambeli.com.


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oud

The oud is the well known lute of the Arabs. It is played not only in the northern part of Africa, but in most of the other Muslim countries of Africa as well. In Somalia it is known as kaban or kaman.

In fact two different kind of ouds exist :
- the oud with 4 courses
- the oud with 5 or 6 courses (also known as oud sharqi - "lute of the east").
This last one is nowadays by far the most popular instrument. See for a full description of this oud the next section : Middle East.

The four-course oud is now quite rare. It exists only in Algeria (mainly in Tlemcen province) as the kouitra (see under), and in Tunisia and in East Algeria (in the Constantine province) as the oud arbi (or ud / oud tunsi or Tunisian ud / oud). In Morocco (where it was called ud / oud ramal) the four-course oud is not used anymore.

oud arbi
example :
bought via internet from Souk.Tunisia.com 2008
L=820 B=340 H=170mm
scale 590mm
You Tube
oud arbi

The oud arbi looks like a normal oud, but it has a smaller body and the neck looks a bit longer. The back is made of 15 to 20 ribs, glued together. The top half of the (unvarnished) soundboard sticks out a few milimeters over the edge of the body; the bottom half has dark purfling along a decorative top rib around the edge. The join between neck and body is covered with extra star-shaped ribs.

Although the pegbox also bends back, the curve is different from that of the oud, and it ends in a violin-like curl.

It may have one or three decorated round rosettes (usually carved in the soundboard, unlike the separate ones of the oud), and a (diamond shaped) scratchplate between rosettes and bridge. The bridge usually is decorated and has "moustaches". The fingerboard is flush with the soundboard, and it has no frets.

The oud arbi has (like the kouitra) 4 courses of double nylon strings (lowest are wound).
The tuning is usually : gg e'e' aa d'd' (note the octave jump on the 3th course).

The oud arbi is played with a long, flat thin plectrum, and used in Arab-Andalusian music, in orchestras that often also include (besides many violins) several oud sharqi and mandolas. The strings are often used as drones.


oud arbi
(picture from website UMBC)

For lots more information about the oud arbi (and kouitra) see Diapason de Skikda (halfway the blog, in French).

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kouitra
example : bought via Ouedkniss, Algeria 2014
L=910 B=330 H=190mm
scale 640mm
You Tube
kouitra
You Tube
Mohamed Bahar
kouitra
kouitra / kwitra

This type of four-course oud is now also quite rare. It exists only in Algeria (in Algiers and in Tlemcen province) where it is called kouitra (or kuitra or kwitra or even quwaytara).

Although the kouitra is quite similar to the oud arbi (see above) in having 4 courses, the body is more elongated (more like a Renaissance lute), and the pegbox less bend back and often quite straight. The body is made of strips like a normal oud, but all around the edge of the body (around the front) is often an extra strip with decoration.
picture left from CD by Beihdja Rahal, a famous singer and kouitra player


The single rosette of a kouitra is usually in the shape of a pot of flowers, made from a different piece of wood.
The bridge often has turned-up moustaches.
The fingerboard is flush with the front, and has no frets.

The kouitra has (like the oud arbi) 4 courses of double nylon strings.
The tuning is also the same : gg e'e' aa d'd' (or : cc aa dd gg). Note that the 3th course is the highest).

The kouitra is played with a long, flat thin plectrum (or with a folded eagle feather), and used in Arab-Andalusian music, in orchestras that often also include (besides many violins) several oud sharqi and mandolas.

For lots more information about the kouitra (and the oud arbi) see Diapason de Skikda (halfway the blog, in French).

   
mondol
example :
bought via eBay 2009
L=990 B=340 H=75mm
scale 650mm
You Tube
mondol

In North Africa (mainly in Algeria), a special plucked instrument is getting popular since the 1960's, which is a combination of an oud, a guitar and a mando-cello. It is known as the mondol, or mandol or mandole. It developed from a large mandola, with 4 double strings, but now it often has 5 courses. It is mainly used in popular music, especially in Chaabi and Kabylie music.

The mondol is a mando-cello, with a guitar-style neck, and raised fingerboard. The body has always a flat back, never rounded like an oud. The soundhole is often diamant-shaped, but you may also find round rosettes and even multiple rosettes (like on the oud). There is usually a scratch-plate between soundhole and bridge.

The neck has metal frets like a guitar, but the modern mondol can be recognized by two extra (quarter tone) frets : between the 1st and 2nd, and between the 3th and 4th frets. Some players use even more. These are mainly used in Kabylie music.

The 5 double metal strings are tuned with guitar-like tuning machines on a slotted peghead.

The strings run over a thin loose bridge to small pins or a string-holder on the edge of the body.

mondol with rosettes like an oud
(picture from website Takil.net)

Tuning of a mondol can be (EE) AA dd gg bb (lower strings of a guitar), or like an oud, or similar to a mando-cello : (DD) GG dd aa e'e'.

It is played with a plectrum, to accompany singing.

   
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