Instrument Building And Repair Project

The overarching objective of Music In Africa Foundation’s Instrument Building and Repair (IBR) project is to encourage the formalisation and professionalisation of instrument-making and repair in Africa, especially in relation to indigenous African instruments.

Background

In 2014, the Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF) identified as one of its focus areas for development the need to encourage young people from music and music-related sectors to consider instrument-making as a career. This need extended itself from the recognition that the making of traditional African instruments is not a widely practiced skill and seems to be limited to the older generation.

Traditional African instrument makers are also few and far between, making communication and logistics between teachers and learners an obstacle. When instrument building workshops take place, budgetary constraints do not allow teachers or learners the time to explore the finer details of an instrument.

Based on these observations, the MIAF designed and piloted the first IBR workshop at the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) in Zanzibar in February 2015.

In 2016, the foundation received funding from the South African National Lotteries Commission to implement a much bigger version of the project in Johannesburg. The project drew participants from five African countries. 25 students from South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Kenya and Ethiopia were trained on how to build and repair musical instruments. The instruments that they made were:

  • Traditional Instruments: Umakhweyana and Marimba
  • Conventional Instrument: Dulcimer guitar

The workshop culminated in a traditional instruments concert at the Wits Theatre in Johannesburg.

It is the MIAF’s aim to roll out similar workshops in as many African countries as possible over the next few years.

Objectives

  • Developing awareness of musical instrument makers in Africa with a view to promote their work to a wider global audience.
  • Facilitating the sharing and transfer of skills in indigenous instruments between countries on the continent.
  • Encouraging the formalisation and professionalisation of instrument-making and repair in Africa, especially in relation to indigenous instruments.
  • Helping instrument makers develop their careers.
  • Fostering the rapid monetisation and sustainable development of instrument-making and repair in Africa.
  • Promoting constant exchange of ideas, expertise, experiences and know-how among instrument makers in Africa.
  • Facilitating the identification of existing gaps in the field with a view to contribute new solutions.
  • Facilitating the transfer of knowledge and skills of indigenous instruments between younger and older generations.

2020 edition

The MIAF has also announced that multi-instrumentalist and instrument maker Joe Makhanza will facilitate one of the workshops on the building of the kamale ngoni instrument. Kamale ngoni is a kora-like, stringed instrument that originated in West Africa. The instrument contributed to the rise of Wassoulou music in the 1970s and 1990s.

Makhanza was born in Giyani in South Africa's Limpopo province. He completed a bachelor of music degree and a post-graduate diploma in arts marketing from Wits University. He is currently completing his masters in ethnomusicology and is a part-time lecturer in African music studies at Rhodes University. He plays the kora, mbira, valiha, masenqo, xiwewe, ngoni ba and xizambi, among others. He also manufactures the aforementioned instruments.

The MIAF will confirm more trainers who will join the workshops as well as the other instruments that will be featured in the 2020 IBR programme. 

Apply to participate here.

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The Music In Africa Instrument Building and Repair project is funded by the National Lotteries Commission. It is implemented in partnership with Siemens Stiftung, Goethe-Institut, Wits Theatre and Kaya FM.