Kayamb or Kayamba

The Unique Sound of the Kayamb

Is the Kayamba a Percussive Instrument?
The kayamb (also known as kayamba) is a traditional instrument from Kenya. Made from reeds or wood, it is shaken by thumbs while being held in both hands. The instrument’s distinctive sound comes from the rustling of the reed mats. It is about eight inches in length and is used for weddings and initiation rituals. Its use has spread across the world, and today, it is used in many African countries as well as in the West.

Have you ever heard of the beautiful kayamb music instrument? It originated in West Africa, but is today played in other regions as well. Kayamb is a type of handcrafted, traditional musical instrument.

The Kayamb consists of a single string run over a notched bridge, anchored on both ends.

It is played by holding a stick in the right hand and plucking the string with the thumb. The Kayamb originated in Africa before spreading to Cuba.

The Kayamb can be made from different kinds of trees or other objects, such as logs, gourds, metal sheets, etc.

The inner part of the instrument is made up of metal parts like the metal strings, drum heads, and cylinders which give a particular sound timbre depending on whether they are covered with animal skins.

How is Kayamb played?

The kayamb is a traditional percussion instrument found in the coastal regions of Kenya and Tanzania.

It is made of two reeds sewn together and filled with small beads or seeds.

A wooden frame, hexagonal in shape or made of two hexagons, holds the instrument and reeds. One hand holds the center bar while the other flings the reeds back and forth.

The instrument is primarily used to accompany dances but is sometimes used in church settings. It has been compared to the African harp.

The name is derived from Kalenjin, meaning “Abraham,” and the sound of the instrument is a combination of sounds. It is played with two hands on either side.

In some cases, a person may hold two kayambas at the same time.

Once you see the amazing talent of Kayamba Africa, you will surely want to hear their music. It is the perfect blend of traditional music and contemporary dance.

Kayamb is a raft rattle idiophone

The instrument is made of reed, and its sound is similar to that of a raft rattle. In addition to being a percussion instrument, the Kayamb is also known as a raft rattle.

The African Kayamb
Photo Credit: David Monniaux

Whether you play it with a group or solo, the Kayamb can provide a unique and fascinating experience.

The Kayamb is a raft rattle used in East Africa and Kenya. It is made of reeds bound together and filled with small beads and seeds. It is held in both hands and flung back and forth with the thumbs.

Kayamb is traditionally played by women, and is a part of ensembles such as the Wagogo, a religious ceremony, and is played by women in the church or with their hands clasped together.

Kayambas have been used for centuries to accompany African traditional music.

The raft rattle was invented in the 1880s by the Bajuni people of Louisiana. It is made from the quills of the African crowned porcupine.

This animal has long quills that vibrate in unison, creating a loud buzz when struck. The Bajuni people use these quills to make the rattle.

The raft rattle is played with a rudimentary wooden bowl.

Kayamba is used in traditional, neo-traditional, church, and popular music making

The kayamb is a raft rattle idiophone commonly used in Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and other East African countries.  It is also used for popular music and may have been introduced by the Swahili-speaking people.

The earliest recordings of Kayamba were made in Tanzania.

The instrument is used in traditional, neo-traditional, church, and popular music-making. In Tanzania, the instrument is mostly used in church settings and is often found in the music of the Nyabugera Parish Youth Choir.

It is used to accompany religious services as well as dance performances.

The instrument is also used in disco halls and evangelization. While the instruments used are different, the traditional Kayamba is used in evangelization.

This makes it a highly versatile instrument. The instrument has a rich history in African music. Its versatility has made it a popular instrument for a wide range of genres.

The instrument is made from a single piece of animal skin or bottle gourd. The player blew on the string using his fingers or a bow similar to violin playing.

The instrument was rarely used as a traditional instrument, and the Kikuyu and Nilo tribes have largely abandoned its use.

There is a newer version of the Kayamba that uses tin as a resonator.

The songs that are performed are usually in English. However, some songs are also performed in other languages.

Often, the songs are written by the group members and the pastor. Each member of the group also contributes to the arranging, songwriting, and lead vocals.

For this reason, Kayamb has a strong role in the popular music of Tanzania.

Kayamba is made of reed

The ‘Kayamba’ is a reed-based instrument from coastal Kenya. It is a reed instrument that measures approximately 16 inches long and 8 inches wide.

When shaken from side to side, the instrument produces a rattling sound. It can also be played by striking a wooden strip across the middle with your thumbs.

Despite its simplicity, this reed-based instrument can produce a unique sound.

The kayamba is a percussion instrument originating in east Africa. Made from dried reeds.

The reeds are bound together and enclosed in seeds or small beads. Two wooden frames with geometric designs are used to support the reeds.

When played, a kayamb makes a rattling sound, which contrasts with the song’s rhythm.

Another traditional reed instrument is the kalimba. Birgitta’s kalimba has metal bands that pull on small lamels to create the reed.

These metal bands vibrate, lending a buzzing effect to the tune.

Birgitta’s instrument is made of reed, but she also includes wood slats to add to its traditional appeal.

Kayamba is a percussion instrument

This instrument measures approximately eight inches long and is played using the thumbs and fingers. This instrument is commonly used in weddings and other rites.

The wooden frame is decorated with Kenyan designs and friendly colors. The reeds and ball filling in the shaker produce a distinct sound.

Kayamba african instrument
Photo Credit: Author Anthony Chinnici

The wooden frame can be rolled or wiggled to produce a varied sound. A Kayamba Shaker can produce a variety of different sounds, which can vary from soft to loud.

The kayamb is held horizontally between the palms of both players and is used to produce primary rhythmic articulations.

Sometimes, players may also use their thumbs to tap on the upward-facing raft, which is used to produce the underlying melody.

The kayamba’s sounds are often doubled by the vocal rhythms of accompanying songs.

The instrument is widely spread throughout the Eastern African region, and its widespread use is attributed to people who speak Swahili.

Other percussion instruments include the guiro and the cabasa. These instruments are played by striking and shaking them, and are a staple of salsa and other Latin American music styles.

Some of these instruments are tuned, and some are not. While most percussion instruments are played with hands or beaters, a membranophone has a vibrating membrane that produces sound.

Bongos are made of wood and are smaller than congas.

Kayamba is used in Maloya music

The timba originated in Mozambique.

Timba is a percussion instrument made of wooden keys of varying sizes, which are placed on a hollowed gourd as a resonance box.

The timba is now primarily made of metal and is referred to as a kayamb in Kenya and Anjouan.

The timbre of timba is determined by the type of material used for its body, while a kaembe is made of plant-based materials.

The kayamb is used for rhythmic purposes in Maloya music. It can be found in many world music groups. Maya Kamaty often plays the kayamb.

The instrument can also be made of hollow stalks of sugar cane or reed filled with canna seeds.

The kayamb produces a rhythm similar to that of the ocean.

Maloya music has African and Indian influences.

Initially, it was sung by slaves and indentured workers. It grew to be a symbol of freedom for those oppressed on the sugar plantations. Later, French authorities banned it.

Maloya songs were structured in call-and-response structures, accompanied by a variety of percussion instruments.

While this music is generally performed by a group of people, it can be played by any instrument.