Art/ Collection/ Art Object


late 19th century
Wood, metal bridge
10 × 7 1/2 in. (25.4 × 19.1 cm)
Idiophone-Plucked / Depressed
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
Not on view
Kisanji (Cisaji), a lamellaphone with 18 tongues tuned with wax, and rattling metal rings.
Lamellaphone is a term to designate instruments consisting of thin tongues of metal or split cane, mounted on a resonating board or box. Depressing the free ends of the tongues with the thumbs produces a gentle ringing sound, sometimes augmented by jingling objects attached to the board, and amplified by holding the instrument in a hollow gourd. Tuning is accomplished by sliding the tongues in or out in order to change their vibrating length. Lamellaphones are distributed across sub-Sahara Africa and were brought by slaves to Latin America. They are known by many names that may also be shared with xylophones. Most names have word stems which include: -mbila; -mira; -limba; or -rima. Westerners, not recognizing differences in construction, have simplified the name to two regional terms calling them either mbira or sanza.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown
Hosted by Laurence Libin in Lend Us Your Ears: A Series of Twelve Radio Programs. CD. Recording., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1978.

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