The Kabosa by Ann Harivola, Age 20

I was struck by the wealth of traditional Malagasy instruments and enchanted by a museum exhibition in our capital, Antananarivo. I could not resist a closer examination of these musical instruments that are so important to me culturally as well as historically.

From a young age, I would often attend musical events and as a result of my passion for them, I was particularly attracted by the category of chordophones or stringed instruments, especially the kabosa.

I had an opportunity to hear the kabosa being played during a performance organized by famous artists in a cultural venue. Its remarkable sound really amazed me. In addition, my good seat greatly added to my enjoyment. Historically, the kabosa was already known before the Christian era. It originally appeared in Assyria or Egypt and then spread throughout Asia as a result of the civilizing influence of Islamic immigrants. Its name "QÜBÜZ", meaning a short lute, is of Turkish origin. In Madagascar, it comes from the northwest and is called the kabosa. The instrument is used for a number of purposes: family celebrations, serenades by young people and as a pastime for workers. In cultural terms, it was commonly played during sports activities in the southwest region of the island and was even used for ritual ceremonies. The kabosa is classified as a folk instrument and retains its authenticity because of its tone.

Technically, this kind of plucked stringed instrument is built somewhat like the lokanga bara. The soundbox is made from a single piece of wood, hollowed out in the middle. Its bottom, which may be flat or rounded, has an opening that allows sound vibrations to pass through it and amplifies them. From two to six strings are supported by a bridge. This instrument also includes a head and a tailpiece which is located at the lower end. It is short, averaging about 66 cm in length. Its light sound is obtained by picking the upper strings with a plectrum made of zebu horn. For a higher-pitched sound, the part of the string that is vibrating is strummed. Playing on two thirds of the string produces an even higher sound. The pitch depends on the size and tension of the string. This instrument is sometimes accompanied by singing. It is difficult to confirm who owned this object. Despite having no traditional music schools or ability to read music, kabosa players simply depend on their natural talent and inspiration to create or compose songs. This is unimportant since they will always belong to the family of instruments of our heritage. The kabosa was once somewhat neglected but it has become increasingly popular, enjoyed by a great many listeners and esteemed by a new generation. It is now quite common in variety shows and can be heard everywhere. Although this kabosa may be an object in a museum collection that has lain unused for some time, some talented players discovered it during a tour and , consequently, the instrument has now been restored to musical centres. It can even be heard played in the streets.


Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiqu

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans