Ocorneli, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The Umakheweyana is in the chordophone bow family that is currently mainly found in different countries in Africa. It is sometimes referred to as ugubu or umqangala and it originated from the Khoisan peoples who live in Southern Africa.

The first Umakhweyana was invented in 13000 B.C. There is no clear individual that invented the Umakheweyana. However, there is an engraving of a person, herding animals while also playing the musical bow instrument. This is most likely the first person that made the Umakhweyana. 

The Umakheweyana is a musical bow that is made up of a wooden stick and taut cord. The size of the stick can vary from half a meter to three meters. Furthermore, a taut cord in the Umakheweyana is utilized to strung the instrument from end to end. However, unlike many other string instruments, the Umakheweyana has an external resonator that is attached to the back of the string instead of an internal resonator. These resonators help reinforce sounds for acoustic musical instruments.

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Umakheweyana recently has been utilized to play Zulu classical music. While most Zulu instruments are less played amongst the young generation nowadays, the Umakheweyana is one of the instruments that is still used throughout Zulu culture.

How do I play the instrument?

There are many ways to play the Umakheweyana. The musician can produce faint sounds by touching the string with their fingers, by connecting the stick and the string in order to make two taut segments, or by getting rid of overtones with the use of the resonator.

Are there any instrument silimar to this one?

The tshihwana is very similar to the umakhweyana. However, the umakhweyana has three notes while the tshihwana has four.

How long does it take to learn?

It usually takes 10 – 15 years to master the umakhweyana.

Is there special equipment needed for the instrument?

There is no need for special equipment.

Niteddy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rock with a Star!

Let’s enjoy the sound of this umakhweyana through this wonderful performance by Mama Bavikile Ngema.

Mama Bavikile Ngema is a well known musician in South Africa that is famous for her umakhweyana and umqangala music.