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Traditional Musical Instruments

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Traditional musical instruments in widespread use include the Massinko, a one-stringed violin played with a bow; the Krar, a six-stringed lyre, played with the fingers or a plectrum; the Washint, a simple flute; and three types of drum - the Negarit (kettledrum), played with sticks, the Kebero, played with the hands, and the Atamo, tapped with the fingers or palm. Other instruments include the Begena, a huge, Multi-stringed lyre often referred to as the Harp of David; the Tsinatseil, or sistrum, which is used in church music; the Meleket, a long trumpet without finger holes, and the embilta, a large, simple, one-note flute used on ceremonial occasions.

Though often simply made, the Massinko can, in the hands of an expert musician, produces a wide variety of melodies. It is often played by wandering minstrels,particularly near eating houses, where the musicians entertain the diners. The rousing rhythms of the Negarit were used in times gone by to accompany important proclamations, and chiefs on the march would be preceded by as many as 30 men, each beating a Negarit carried on a donkey.

The tiny Atamo is most frequently played at weddings and festivals, setting the rhythmic beat of folk songs and dances. Modern-style bands have come into existence in recent decades, and there are noted Ethiopian jazz musicians.

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