Odds and quads

This bolon harp would traditionally have been used by the Malinke people of Mali and Guinea in hunting ceremonies and before battle.

August 16, 2012

The harps were made from open-topped gourds covered with goat- or calfskin, and had a fretless neck, bridge and strings.

Although the instrument dates to the beginning of the Mande Empire (c.1230) and is still played throughout Guinea, it is unusual to find an example in a European collection.

This one was brought to Cardiff University by Amanda Villepastour, a lecturer in music who spent years travelling the world both as a musician (touring with the likes of Boy George and Billy Bragg) and as a curator and ethnomusicologist. She has assembled an impressive array of mainly African instruments, since African music is at the centre of her research interests. She is currently taking bolon lessons with a view to travelling to Conakry, Guinea's capital.

The other image shows the brass bells on a double-headed Nigerian bata drum.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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