N'goni (ngoni) are west African rhythm harps. There are three main types, the djeli, the donso and the kamale. The donso and kamale n'goni are similar to the kora, only having less strings and being slightly different in construction.
The donso n'goni is the six string harp of the traditional hunter societies from the historic Wassoulou region of Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. The word donso can be translated as hunting or hunter. For this reason the donso n'goni are also known as the hunters harp. Donso n'goni are ceremonial instruments, used by hunters to accompany traditional chanting and storytelling. They often have a shaker called a kesing kesing (also known by many other phoenetic names) that is attached to the top of the instrument and vibrates when being played. Donso n'goni are usually played together with the karagnan (also called kariyan or kassa kassa), a serrated metal tube that is scraped with a metal stick. Typically there are many donso n'goni players in a ceremony. The video below features Lassina Traore playing his six string n'goni. We produced this video from some footage we shot the historic village of Sindou, in the South West region of Burkina Faso. This region is famous as being home to thousands of people from the donso caste, who to this day remain staunch in the practise of their traditions and ceremonies.
The kamale n'goni (pictured at the top of this page) is a modern variation of the donso n'goni. Kamale can be translated as youth, so the kamale n'goni is said the be the harp of the new generation to play modern arrangements on, rather than the traditional compositions. There are several stories regarding how the kamale n'goni was first made. Alata Brulaye is said to have first made this variation in the 1960's by adding more strings to the donso n'goni. Structurally, that is the only significant difference between the donso and the kamale n'goni. Today kamale n'goni are usually made with ten, twelve or fourteen strings. The video below features Oumar Diallo demonstrating several kamale styles on his twelve string n'goni, filmed in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.
Both the donso and the kamale n'goni are made from a large gourd with a goat skin stretched over an opening in the top and fastened with taks on the sides. The bridge sits on top of the goat skin and connects the strings from the base of the n'goni to the stem where they are tuned. In West African countries, traditionally the stem of n'goni are made from a species of bamboo that is solid. Traditional strings are made from animal intestine and bound to the bamboo stem of the n'goni. Today plastic strings are most often used as well as a variety of types of wood for the neck together with guitar machine heads for tuning.
RESONANCE N'GONI AND THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THEM
Resonance n'goni are born from a successful collaboration between Laso Konaté and Jeremy Cloake.
Laso is a Bobo man from Burkina Faso. He is a family man who works as a street education volunteer for an international humanitarian organization whose objective is to support development projects focusing on education and health in Burkina Faso, particularly amongst orphans and seriously dis-advantaged people. For his work with Resonance, Laso hand picks only the very best gourds from each years harvest in Burkina Faso. The gourds he selects are chosen according to shape - for acoustic purposes - and durability. The inside pith is cleaned out thoroughly and they are packaged, ready to be sent. Throughout this process, Laso often employs people who are in desperate need of financial income to feed themselves and their family, or uses the income to directly support orphans.
Jeremy Cloake is a New Zealander of Celtic and Māori ancestry. Similar to the griot traditions of West Africa, Jeremy descends from a long line of musicians. One of his Celtic ancestral names is Harpur, which literally means harp and pipe player. His Māori ancestry is from Te Wai Pounamu and includes the Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe and Kāi Tahu musical and carving traditions. He was introduced to the n'goni in 2005 in Australia by a close friend Matthew King. Since this introduction, Jeremy has embraced the instrument both as a player and maker of it. It is his commitment to acoustic and aesthetic quality and his fine attention to detail that drives Jeremy to constantly innovate and improve the n'goni he makes. As testament to Jeremy's work, recently African master n'goni players began seeking his instruments to use as their own n'goni. For more info about Jeremy click on the link.
HOW ARE THEY MADE?
It can take over six months for the gourds to grow to a suitable size to be used for n'goni. Once the desired size is reached, they are harvested and left to dry for several more months. This process happens annually. Once they have been dried, they are opened at the top and the inside pith is scraped out until it is completely clean. They are then cut to a suitable height and prepared so they are ready for being skinned. The goat skin is soaked in water and stretched tightly over the opening in the top. The skin is then fastened to the gourd with taks and the sound hole is cut to a specific size.
The stem is routed out and holes for the machine heads are drilled. It is carefully shaped to the desired form and sanded by hand until a very smooth finish is achieved. The stem is then oiled and once dry, the machine heads are attached. The bridge is made by shaping back timber to an appropriate form and drilling very fine holes through it. Jeremy also designs the brass pieces and coordinates the production of them together with the machine heads, which are custom made in Japan. He then assembles all of the n'goni parts together with the gourd. He strings the instrument for the first time and does a final test of the acoustic and structural quality before it is available for sale. This process happens in various locations all over the world.
WHY CHOOSE RESONANCE N'GONI?
We take pride in making unique musical instruments that will be passed down from one generation to the next. We like to think that your n'goni will be enjoyed by several generations, providing many years of musical enjoyment and enriching your life. To achieve this, we seek out only the very best quality parts available that we know will last the distance. The gourds we use are the first selection of each years harvest, the pick of the bunch. They are chosen according to shape and durability. The timber used for all the n'goni parts is A+ grade up-cycled aged hardwood, often over 80 years old. This means it is very stable and durable. The timber parts are finished with 1200 grit sand paper and oiled several times with a special mix designed to preserve the timber and make it look amazing. Only the best Gotoh precision machine heads are used for tuning together with tough trace strings that sound fantastic and last a long time. Examples of our work can be seen on relevant pages. Our customers regularly tell us that our n'goni are the finest available, see the testimonials page for more information.
EASY TO PLAY
N'goni are held with both hands and the strings are plucked with the thumbs and index fingers. The hand positioning feels very natural and people new to n'goni often comment on how comfortable it is and how easy it is to produce beautiful sounds. Resonance n'goni are usually made with ten strings (pentatonic tuning). Because of the tuning, all of the strings sound good together, so it is impossible to play a 'bad' note. This makes it easy for anybody to play and enjoy. There are no tricky scales to learn like a lot of other string instruments, just pick it up and start playing!
We value sustainability and actively encourage the re-use of materials. All of the timber used for Resonance N'goni parts is up-cycled or from well managed plantations. The gourds are a completely natural and renewable product, grown from seed each year and harvested annually. Whenever possible, Resonance uses re-cycled packaging and we always strive to use natural products that are renewable and well managed.
At Resonance we believe that the inventors of this great instrument should be benefiting from the globalisation of it. That's why whenever it is possible we source our gourds from Burkina Faso, one of the tradtional homes of the n'goni. We also support several grass roots projects in Burkina Faso, including orphanages and music programmes. We believe that this adds to the integrity of our work and translates into the look, feel and sound of our instruments. As a buyer of our n'goni, you can also feel good knowing that a large portion of your money is being used to support those who need it most, the traditional owners of the instrument.
The fact that each person is unique means we often have different preferences and requirements. Here at Resonance we acknowledge this with all the n'goni we make. All Resonance n'goni are finished to the personal requirements of the owner. The bridge is custom made to your exact hand measurements so that the strings are a comfortable span and can be played with ease. You can tell us of your acoustic preferences and aesthetic requirements and we will consider these when making your instrument. We believe that hand made instruments have a unique feel to them as they are made by a person, rather than a machine. We acknowledge this with the energy and intention we direct into each instrument when at work, to create instruments that have soul and love to sing. If you would like to, simply tell us a bit about what is important to you, what you love and aspire to, and that will be held present as your instrument is made. All Resonance n'goni are made with a lot of care and love, just read a few of the testimonials to hear what our customers say.
EASY ASSEMBLY AND MAINTENANCE
The unique and clever design of the Resonance Slide System means they are easily assembled and disassembled. Aside from the machine heads (for tuning) there are no fixed parts, no little screws, complicated binding or messy glue! Resonance n'goni can be assembled and fully tuned in minutes rather than hours. It's so easy even young children can do it! This also means you save of freight costs!
FREE VIDEO TUITION!
Want to learn to play n'goni but can't find a teacher anywhere? Here is your answer: free video tuition that shows you how to play different types of rhythms with the n'goni. These tuition videos come free with every n'goni purchase and are an excellent way to get you started. In addition to this, we also supply free maintenance videos. How do I fix a broken string? No problem, just follow the maintenance tutorials.
That's right, free email and skype support with all n'goni purchases! Got a problem and can't find an answer with the video tutorials? No problem, just send us an email and we will happily assist you.
10 YEAR GUARANTEE
We know our work is top quality, that's why we can offer our exclusive 10 year guarantee. That means if for some reason you have a problem with your instrument, just let us know and we will sort it out for you. Please see the terms and conditions below for more information.
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RESONANCE N'GONI TYPES
• Travel N’goni™ - The small and robust instrument for life on the road.
• Classic N’goni™ - An excellent multi-purpose instrument.
• Premium N’goni™ - Our most popular multi-purpose instrument.
• Super Deluxe N’goni™ - Both a stunning instrument to play and a unique art piece.
• The Midnight Series™ - Our latest n’goni made from black components.
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