An idiochord (Latin: idio – "self", chord – "string", also known as a drum zither[1]) is a musical instrument in which the "string" of the instrument is made from the same material as its resonating body.[2] Such instruments may be found in the Indian Ocean region, disparate regions of Africa and its diaspora, and parts of Europe and North America.

Bamboo is often a popular material for idiochords: a tube of bamboo may be slit to loosen portions of the husk at the middle, leaving them attached at the ends, and these "strings" may be raised up by inserting sticks to serve as bridges.[2] Such bamboo idiochords include the valiha of Madagascar, the kulibit in the Philippines and Indonesia, and the karaniing of the Mon-Khmer "Orang Asli" tribal peoples of Malaysia. A massive one-string bamboo idiochord, the benta, is native to Jamaica and played with a slide,[3] much like a diddly-bow.

Idiochords are also made from other materials; cornstalk was used in North America to make the cornstalk fiddle,[4] and the same instrument was played in the Carpathians,[5] and in Serbia as the gingara or djefje guslice.[6] In Eastern New Guinea, one-string idiochords are made from the rib of the sago palm.[7] The Warao people of Venezuela and Guyana create a monochord idiochord by raising up a fiber from an eta leaf.[8]

Various idiochords are found in mainland Africa, including the akadingidi of Uganda,[9] and the one-string mpeli of the Mpyeme people of Congo and the Central African Republic.[10]


  1. Helen Schreider; Frank Schreider (1963). The drums of Tonkin: an adventure in Indonesia. Coward-McCann. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  2. Henry Spiller (2008). Focus: Gamelan Music of Indonesia. Taylor & Francis. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-0-415-96067-0. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  3. Maureen Warner-Lewis (2003). Central Africa in the Caribbean: Transcending Time, Transforming Cultures. University of West Indies Press. pp. 254–. ISBN 978-976-640-118-4.
  4. Francis Channing Woodworth (1856). Woodworth's Youth's Cabinet. D.A. Woodworth. pp. 98–. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  5. Anthony Baines (1961). Musical instruments through the ages. Penguin Books. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  6. Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen. Afdeling Culturele en Physische Anthropologie (1952). Mededeeling. p. lxvii. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  7. Hans Fischer (1983). Sound-producing instruments in Oceania: construction and playing technique--distribution and function. Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies. p. 70. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  8. Dale Alan Olsen (1996). Music of the Warao of Venezuela: Song People of the Rain Forest. University Press of Florida. pp. 104–. ISBN 978-0-8130-1390-9. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  9. Paschal Yao Younge (1998). Enhancing Global Understanding Through Traditional African Music and Dance: A Multicultural African Music Curriculum for American Middle Schools. ProQuest. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-0-549-68228-8. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  10. Gerhard Kubik (15 November 2010). Theory of African Music. University of Chicago Press. pp. 245–. ISBN 978-0-226-45694-2. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
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