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Traditional music instruments of Kenya

Traditional music instruments of Kenya

Drums (Ngoma)

The use of drums is elaborate and central to traditional dances in Kenya. They are still used throughout the country. Drums come in many shapes and sizes. Different drums are used for different dances.

Long horns

These are made from animal horns. Horns in the past were often used for summoning people for an important meeting, announce public rites or call warriors to battle. They are usually used in folk pieces.


Many tribes have an instrument similar to a medieval lyre. The luo call it ‘nyatiti’, the Luhya call it ‘Litungu’, the Kiisi call it ‘obokano’ and the Kalenjin call it ‘bugandit’. The instrument produces a gentle relaxing sound and it usually played solo with one singer.

There is also a Luo lyre referred to as ‘thum’. It is usually played at rituals and on social occasions like weddings and cleansing of individuals.

Small Rattles (Njingiri)

The rattles are made by blacksmiths and they are looked upon mostly as ornaments. They are fastened below the knee during dances. Used to stress dancing and also in magic rituals.

Picture rattles (Gicanda)

These were often played by professional minstrels who paid a fee of goatskin to learn gicandi songs. The songs were known to be ancient and full of archaic words.

Other instruments include;

  • Bells
  • Whistles
  • Fiddle
  • Flute (Muturiru)
  • Harps