The n’goni is a melodic instrument of Peul origin, used by this ethnic group in the Nioro du Sahel circle since antiquity. Originally made with a single string, it was used by shepherds for entertainment as they journeyed with their herds.

Little by little, as things evolved, the one-stringed n’goni took on other forms as the Malinké witchdoctors transformed it into a four-stringed instead of a single-stringed instrument to produce a more pleasant sound, hence the name jeli n’goni or "witchdoctor’s lute".

Initially, I took a liking to this instrument, which appears so mysterious to some, and started to play it for my own pleasure. This then led me to apply for admission to the National Institute for the Arts, where I could learn more about it.

The n’goni plays an important part in Peul society. It is used at concerts, weddings and baptismal ceremonies. It is an instrument of unification and is used to announce good news. Each ethnic group has its own type of n’goni. It is called bamanagòni by the Bamananw, ganbaré by the Soninké, and njarkat by the Sonrhaï.
Inst Read More

The n’goni is a melodic instrument of Peul origin, used by this ethnic group in the Nioro du Sahel circle since antiquity. Originally made with a single string, it was used by shepherds for entertainment as they journeyed with their herds.

Little by little, as things evolved, the one-stringed n’goni took on other forms as the Malinké witchdoctors transformed it into a four-stringed instead of a single-stringed instrument to produce a more pleasant sound, hence the name jeli n’goni or "witchdoctor’s lute".

Initially, I took a liking to this instrument, which appears so mysterious to some, and started to play it for my own pleasure. This then led me to apply for admission to the National Institute for the Arts, where I could learn more about it.

The n’goni plays an important part in Peul society. It is used at concerts, weddings and baptismal ceremonies. It is an instrument of unification and is used to announce good news. Each ethnic group has its own type of n’goni. It is called bamanagòni by the Bamananw, ganbaré by the Soninké, and njarkat by the Sonrhaï.
Instrument made by Kabiné Sissoko in 1994.


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

N'goni (Lute)

N'goni (in the Bamanan language) or lute

Bamako (Ethnic group: Bamanan)

National Museum of Mali, Mali

Wood, leather
Height: 81 cm, Lenght: 11 cm
© National Museum of Mali, Mali


In Mali, the n’goni lute is a three or four-stringed instrument of widespread use. Amongst the Peul, it has three strings and is called a gaaci. When used for entertainment purposes, or at weddings, tabaski or ramadan, it may be accompanied by other instruments, singing or clapping. The same may be said of the single-stringed version known as the molaaru, played alone or Backed up in public performances by tunbudè gourds used as drums.

Among the Soninké it is called a ganbare, and has three or four strings each with their own name. It is accompanied by two drums held under the arms, called dunduge, to play sunke or "intimate conversation" music, which is a musical genre fairly representative of the Soninké musical heritage and used on various occasions: baptismal ceremonies, circumcisions, excisions, weddings, tabaski and ramadan. The ganbare is also used to accompany sessions of witchdoctors.

The three-stringed lute that the Tuareg call the tehardent is normally played on its own. However, it can be accompanied by percussion gourds to perform the takanba at baptismal ceremonies, weddings and receptions. Played on its ow Read More

In Mali, the n’goni lute is a three or four-stringed instrument of widespread use. Amongst the Peul, it has three strings and is called a gaaci. When used for entertainment purposes, or at weddings, tabaski or ramadan, it may be accompanied by other instruments, singing or clapping. The same may be said of the single-stringed version known as the molaaru, played alone or Backed up in public performances by tunbudè gourds used as drums.

Among the Soninké it is called a ganbare, and has three or four strings each with their own name. It is accompanied by two drums held under the arms, called dunduge, to play sunke or "intimate conversation" music, which is a musical genre fairly representative of the Soninké musical heritage and used on various occasions: baptismal ceremonies, circumcisions, excisions, weddings, tabaski and ramadan. The ganbare is also used to accompany sessions of witchdoctors.

The three-stringed lute that the Tuareg call the tehardent is normally played on its own. However, it can be accompanied by percussion gourds to perform the takanba at baptismal ceremonies, weddings and receptions. Played on its own for instrumental music, or accompanied sometimes by a single voice, it is the instrument "par excellence" for themes of love and war, two topics often addressed by Tuareg musicians. The best known musical pieces for the tehardent are the yali (name of a place where the Peul and Tuareg fought), njeru (in honour of the noble Peul living in harmony with the Tuareg), mulay (Cherif name), tangaani (a nostalgic song of love containing the words "the chorus thinks only of what it loves"), and jaba (name of an island rich in burgu grass, where the herds graze after returning from the haussa summer pastures).


© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

N'goni Mali: Audio

N'goni Mali: Audio

Canadian Heritage Information Network

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


N'goni Burkina: Audio

N'goni Burkina: Audio

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiques arabes et méditerranéennes Ennejma Ezzahra, Musée de la musique, Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde, Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université d'Antananarivo, Musée ethnographique Alexandre Sènou Adande, Musée national du Mali, St. Boniface Museum, Lycée de langues étrangères Alexandre Dumas, Museum of the Romanian Peasant

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand that music is an expression in all cultures
  • Understand that the relationship between personal feelings and music transcends borders and cultures
  • Develop respect for music from a variety of cultural contexts
  • Examine traditional music practices in selected Francophone countries
  • Demonstrate geographical awareness by identifying Francophone countries
  • Be aware of the musical contributions of various cultural groups in their own community
  • Understand that all world music can be organized within a standard classification system

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