NGOMBI

The ngombi is probably the most beautiful of the Baka's instruments. "Ngombi" is to a certain extent a generic term. For example they will call a guitar a "ngombi". The full name for the instrument I am about to describe is the "ngombi na pekeh" or the "ngombi made from the raphia palm" which indeed it is.

The ngombi can be anything from about one and a half to three metres long. They have four strings with a bridge in the centre making 8 separate notes. It is played on the lap, one hand plucking the strings to the left of the bridge, the other plucking the strings to the right

LISTEN to the ngombi
from album Heart of the Forest

The music is usually repetetive patterns that accompany singing. When played at night accompanied by the songs of the insects and the Baka's gentle voices it is a very hypnotic magical instrument. It is very similar to the "mvet" or "midnight harp" that is found in the forests further north in Cameroon. The strings of both the ngombi and the mvet are traditionally made from fibres that are found in the stem of the rafia palm used to make the body, but today often they use wire strings which they unravel from their snare cable. This gives the instrument a different tone and the strings last longer.

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