Musical Instrument?

Friday 27 January 2017

This plosive aerophone, or slap tube, was picked up in Central Africa during the Livingstone Relief Expedition.

20170127 E1616.0 1200You may not know a lot about this expedition but you have almost certainly heard Henry Morton Stanley’s famous words: ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ Stanley spoke these famous words when he found an ill Dr David Livingstone living in Ujiji, Tanzania in 1871.

Livingstone had gone to Africa to find the source of the Nile but no one had heard from him in several years. Some feared he had died. In 1869 the New York Herald sent Stanley to find Livingstone. Stanley chronicled his adventure for the newspaper and later wrote a book about his travels. In the end, Livingstone decided to stay in Africa and died in modern day Zambia in 1873.

This instrument was picked up somewhere in Central Africa along the journey. Unfortunately, we don’t know where or by whom. In fact, the person who first brought it to the Museum in 1911 thought it might have been a wooden pillow or a food container. It certainly would not have been a very good food container as there are holes on both ends.

To play the instrument you would need to hold it by the handle and use your other hand to slap the end with the smaller hole. The inside of the instrument is cone shaped. This shape amplifies the sound as it passed through the tube towards the larger hole. If you know which part of Central Africa this instrument comes from or what it is called please contact the Museum.

Image: E1615.0