Station: [16] String instruments – Plucked Ínstruments

The zither, the guitar, the lute and the harp – instruments that differ in form and sound, yet all belong to the group of string and plucked instruments.

Note one especially beautiful and fascinating instrument – the valiha, a tube zither made of bamboo from Madagascar, where it’s regarded as the national instrument. The valiha is a marvel of technology. It is made from a single piece of bamboo cane. The strings are made of the bamboo cane itself, they’re cut from the body and then tuned. The pitch is determined by the small wooden blocks you see clamped between the cane and the strings. In Madagascar, the valiha is played at rituals as well as for pleasure.

We have two examples of one of the oldest instruments still being played today – the bowed harp. This instrument, with its long rounded wooden body, was even discovered in a pharaoh's tomb in one of the Egyptian pyramids. There are also images that show the biblical King David, who lived around 1,000 BC, playing a bow harp.

The somewhat neglected looking upright instrument with the round body is a kora from West Africa – sometimes called a “harp-lute”, because it combines features of both. It still has its old stringing, though the bridge is missing. We’ve exhibited the instrument in the condition in which it was found. That was a conscious decision, because the moment we restore an instrument, we erase the traces of its past. This way, it’s preserved as an important period record. On the other hand, the modern kora on show is actually playable. It has nylon strings, though traditionally, they would have made from thin, twisted strips of the hide of a female antelope.

All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch