Ethiopian Instruments: Guide to the Most Commonly Used Instruments

Ethiopian instruments provide music for entertainment, spirituality, celebration and ceremonies. There are four main instruments used in Ethiopian music. Most of them allow the instrumentalist to sing and play at the same time. Much of Ethiopian music is secular music to entertain and relieve the tension of the participants.

Washint: Ethiopian Flute

This unique instrument is played mostly by peasants, shepherds and cow herders. Blowing through the end and using the finger holes to create individual tones sound the instrument. Made from bamboo, the instrument is extremely durable and resistant to inclement weather. In many performances, the flute is the only instrument used in conjunction with voice.

Masïnqo: One-String Violin

The masïnqo is a single string violin that is played with a curved bow. The right hand manipulates the string while the left hand holds the bow. This instrument creates its sound with a box at the base of the string that serves as a resonator. When the string is bowed, the vibrations from the string travel to the box and create the sound that is produced. The instrumentalist will often sing and play the instrument at the same time.

Kirar: Lyre

The kirar, also known as a krar, is commonly decorated with beads. It's a six-string lyre that is used in Ethiopian music. The six strings are plucked in the same manner as a harp would be with the left hand. The right hand and leg serve to support the instrument and provide balance. As the instrument plays, the instrumentalist will often sing folk melodies. This instrument functions by itself or in combination with other instruments and singers to provide enjoyment and entertainment. The instrument makes use of extreme ornamentation based on simple folk melodies.

Käbäro: Ethiopian Drum

The käbäro is an instrument used in Ethiopian drumming. Commonly used in ceremonies and celebrations, it is classified as a membranophone.


Membranophones receive their name for their membranes that stretch over each end of the drum. This particular drum consists of an animal hide stretched over a conical shaped drum. This instrument is a hand drum about the size of a bongo. Because of the nature of the instrument, the performer is able to sing and play at the same time. Drums are typically used to keep tempo, create the rhythm for dance, and provide a meditative outlet for performers.


Popular posts from this blog

List of Musical Techniques and Their Meanings

How to Switch From Mono to Stereo in GarageBand

What Materials Did Claude Monet Use for His Paintings?