The Mafulu eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Mafulu.
being no broader than their thickness.  These two ends are tied together with fine vegetable fibre.  The centre strip, which is generally narrower than the other two at its commencement by the head, is further reduced in width by a more immediate and gradual process of paring down, and so becomes a very slender vibrating tongue or reed, the tip of which goes almost up to, but does not quite reach, the point at which the tips of the two outer strips are bound together.  A hole is bored through the solid head; and through this hole is passed a thick string of native make from 5 to 10 or 12 inches long, secured at one end by a knot on the flat side of the head, to keep the string from slipping out, and having at the other end a large, rough, ornamental tassel.  The tassel is generally in part composed of the untwisted fibres of the string itself; but to these is added something else, such as a bunch of feathers, or two smaller bunches of feathers; and among these may be seen such miscellaneous articles as a fragment of dried-up fruit, or a part of the backbone of a fish.  For playing the instrument, they place its tail end, with the hollow side inwards, to the mouth, holding the extreme tip of that end in the fingers of the left hand, and keep the tongue of the instrument in a constant state of vibration, by smart, rapid, jerky pullings of the tasselled string.

The flute is merely a small simple instrument made out of a small bamboo stem, with one or two holes bored in it.

All these instruments are played by both men and women; but the jew’s-harp and flute are regarded only as toys.

I believe the Mafulu people occasionally sing at dances to the beating of the drums; but this is quite unusual; and they never sing to the music of the jew’s-harp or flute.  Both men and women sing, generally several or many together, not so often alone.  Their songs are all very simple, and are chiefly sung in unison or octaves.  I was told that they sometimes accomplish simple harmonies, the notes of which may simultaneously rise or fall either with the same or different intervals, or may rise and fall in contrary motion; or the harmony may be produced by one man or part of the group sustaining a note, whilst another changes it; and I myself heard an example of the latter of these, and also heard singing in which, while a group of men were singing the same simple air, some of them were occasionally singing one part of it, whilst the others seemed to be singing another part, thus producing a very simple catch or canon.  I am not, however, quite certain as to this.  Their songs are both cheerful and plaintive; but the latter predominate, and are mainly in the minor key.  The subjects of their songs are generally sentimental love, and include ditties by young men about their sweethearts; and I believe that some of their songs are indecent, though I am not sure of this.  They also have warlike songs; and, when a special event occurs, songs are often composed with reference to

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The Mafulu from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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