Kenyan Traditional Musical Instruments

Kenyan Traditional Musical Instruments

Traditional Musical Instruments of the Kenyan Communities

Kenyan Communities and Tribes

When exploring the different traditional musical instruments used by the Kenyan Communities, it is good to know how they settled in the country.

Kenya is made up of about 44 communities who settled in different parts of the country depending on where they originated from. The different ethnic communities and tribes are categorized either as Bantus, Nilotes or Cushites.

The Nilotes originated from the Nile Valley, the Cushites from Ethiopia while the Bantus settled in different parts as they searched for agricultural areas mainly highlands.

Each community has its own traditional musical instruments which they play on different occasions.

List of the 44 tribes and communities in Kenya

  • Elgoyo
  • Chonyi
  • Kikuyu
  • Teso
  • Kipsigis
  • Digo
  • Luhya
  • Embu
  • Kipsigis
  • Duruma
  • Luo
  • Taita
  • Marakwet
  • Giriama
  • Kamba
  • Kuria
  • Nandi
  • Jibana
  • Kisii
  • Samburu
  • Pokot
  • Kambe
  • Somali
  • Tharaka
  • Sabaot
  • Kauma
  • Ameru
  • Mbeere
  • Terik
  • Rabai
  • Turkana
  • Borana
  • Tugen
  • Ribe
  • Maasai
  • Suba
  • Rendile
  • Sengwer
  • Bukusu
  • Gabbra
  • Ogiek
  • Isukha
  • Yaaku
  • Oromo
  • Maragoli
  • Bajuni
  • Tachoni

List of Top Ten Musical Instruments of the Kenyan Communities

Kenyan Traditional Musical Instruments
Source: Melodica Music Stores on JiJi
  1. Kayamba

A Kayamba is a Hand Shaken idiophone which is made up of papyrus reeds and seeds inside. The Musical instrument is very common among the people of coastal Kenya.

  1. Nyatiti

Nyatiti is also known as “Kamba Nane” in the Swahili language. It is an eight string harmonic instrument common among the Luo people. Nyatiti is made of wood, hide and nylon string.

  1. Orutu

Also among the Luo community is Orutu. It is a one-stringed (fiddle) instrument mostly played by experts during birthdays, weddings and other special celebrations.

  1. Isikuti Ensemble

Isikuti ensemble is a set of three drums (Membranes) common among the Luhya people who live in the western parts of Kenya. The drums are of different sizes with the smallest (Isikuti Mutiti) played by the son, medium one (Isikuti Mama) played by the Mother and the biggest (Isikuti Papa) played by the father.

  1. Nyiduong’

Nyiduong’ is a set of six drums of different sizes and pitch common among the Luo People. Each of the drums has a skin strap attached to it to hold it while playing.

  1. Harmonium

The Harmonium is a free-standing keyboard common among the coastal communities. The player uses the hands, foot, and elbow to supply air into the sets of free reeds.

  1. Accordion

Whenever Accordion is mentioned, there is some hope of a Mwomboko dance! The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument among the Kikuyu community.

  1. Ngutha

Ngutha is long cylindrical drums among the people of Mt. Kenya region (Aembu, Ameru, and Chuka). The instruments have one open end and are only played by men during special occasions.

  1. Obokano

Obokano is an eight-stringed musical instrument common among the Kisii people of the Abagusii community of Kenya. The strings of the instrument are obtained from animal tendons while the resonator is from the Omotembe tree.

  1. Chivoti

Chivoti is the Kenyan version of the Didgeridoo. It is a flute made from the Bamboo tree and has six holes. The sound is produced by blowing the mouth hole while blocking the other 5 holes at a time using fingertips. It is commonly used by the Mijikenda communities during the Sengenya dance.

If you are looking for more information about Traditional Musical instruments of Kenyan communities, please visit The Bomas of Kenya.

You can also support the local communities by purchasing a musical instrument.


Bomas of Kenya – For Cultural dances, information and traditional dances of the Kenyan communities.

Musical Instruments Shop in Nairobi

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