A 17th Century Central African Harp

There are few images of African instruments during the 17th and 18th centuries. But the Capuchin missionary Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi, who spend nearly two decades in the region of Angola and the Kongo from 1654 to 1677, produced the watercolor below showing an ensemble of musicians that include one playing a two-stringed, gourd-resonator, harp.

To read more about Cavazzi and his writings, visit John Thornton’s online translation of one of his works here.

This image is reproduced from the wonderful site “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas,” compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Libraries. The image is listed here under the title “Musicians, Kingdom of the Kongo, 1670s,”


2 Replies to “A 17th Century Central African Harp”

  1. this is a nice picture that Shlomo used before at his web site. I must say as someone involved in banjo history, I get sick of the continued references to Koras and other harps or any known African instrument that comes to anyone’s mind as some kind of antecedent to the banjo when the lineage of the instrument in a specific set of West African pucked lutes (of course along with European instruments which provided the flat finger board and tuning pegs) is fairly clear.

  2. Pingback: Banjology | Old Time Party

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