The main ethnic groups are Mandinka, Fula, Wollof, Jola and
Sarahule. Each of these groups has its own particular traditional
music and dance forms associated to particular musical instruments.
The Mandinka have the Jalis (oratorical folk storytellers)
who use the Kora lute and sing.
Local musical instruments are made from local materials such
as wood, hide, calabash gourds and horns.
The Djembe is a drum is common
to all ethnic groups and are played at events marking rites
of passage such as ceremonial weddings, naming ceremonies
and social gatherings. (See also Tama.)
The Boucarabou are played by
the Jola which is comprised of several drums with different
pitches which is played all at once by the same drummer. For
bass beat musicians use the drums and for melody they use
the Koras, Balafon, Xalams
and Bolonbatas. The Jalis
from the Wolof people developed a wide variety of instruments
that have become staples of today's semi-traditional and popular
music. In most areas, Wolof music was rhythmic rather than
melodic. Jalis accompanied their highly energetic, predominantly
monotone speech-song with the Sabarro
(Djembe), the highest drum.
They also used the Bellengo
as their bass drum. The Jola and Manjagos use the Bombolo
which is an idiophone created from a long without animal hide.
There is the calabash called the Sheikeire
which is covered in sea shells or local beads and is shaken
with the hands to create a rattling beat.
This is an earlier version of the kora used by the Diola,
it resembles the shape of the kora but has a curved shaft
and only 6 strings. It may date from the 13th century.
The Wolof (and some of the Serere) have three kinds of lute-like
stringed instrument. Each type produces different sounds but
they all have a long, wooden oval-shaped body covered with
This is a one-string lute played with a horsehair bow
originating with the Toucouleur, Mauritanians and the Soninke
A long hollow calabash which is played by old Wolof and Serere
women by striking rhythmically with a piece of wood. One does
not have to be a Griot to play this instrument.
A simple string attached to a stick, this instrument makes
a whirring noise, which, when used during circumcision and
death rites, protects the initiate and drives away the soul
of the departed.
Other percussion are gourds covered with beads or shells,
rattles, bells or whistles and, something which everyone can
use, clapping hands.