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Gumbo's Pic of the Day, April 1st, 2014:Traditional Maltese Musical Instruments

I recently attended a cultural evening at the National Archives complex in Rabat, Malta. The theme was a lecture and demonstration of original and traditional Maltese folk music instruments. One of the lecturers was a music historian from Ireland who had traveled to Malta on several occasions to document the history of these instruments. It was a fascinating talk and the performance given by some local musicians was equally interesting. These were instruments I had never heard of or seen before, and, although they were an acquired taste on the ears, just knowing that these were being kept alive and passed on for future generations was a delight.


Traditional Maltese musical instruments #1


Iż-żaqq ..The Maltese bagpipe, known as iż-żaqq, is particularly important because it is not exactly like any other bagpipe. However, there are certain similarities, most strikingly with the Greek tsambouna. The Maltese żaqq is made out of the skin of an animal – generally of prematurely-born calf, but also of goat or dog. The complete skin is used including all four legs and tail. The chanter (is-saqqafa) is made up of two adjacent pipes, one with five fingerholes (left) and another with one (right). The chanter terminates with one large cattle horn.


Traditional Maltese musical instruments #2



The tanbur.. The Maltese tambourine is known as it-tanbur in Malta and it-tamburlin in Gozo. It usually accompanies the bagpipe and other more recent instruments such as the accordion. The tanbur is made up of a round wooden brightly-coloured frame with a membrane tightly stretched on one side of it. It is known to have been of varying sizes, the largest reaching a diameter of about 60cm. It frequently has metal discs and pellet bells attached.


The tanbur


There are more details about other instruments at this website:





Images (3)
  • Traditional Maltese musical instruments #1
  • Traditional Maltese musical instruments #2
  • The tanbur

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