Xitende (1)The Xitende is a braced-bow instrument with a gourd resonator. ‘It’s tone is loud and deep and is produced by striking the two distinct halves of the string with a light stick or reed. Bouncing the reed produces fast repeated tones. The resonator is moved on and off the chest to vary the tone-color.

‘This rather large instrument (5′ to 6′ long) is played by wandering minstrels (xilombe) as an accompaniment to their own singing of news, complaints. The Tsonga xitende is cut from the maloha tree, and its copper wire (ritsaninga, “string”) is divided by a movable wire-loop to which is attached a calabash. The string sections are tuned a minor 3rd apart and struck with a maize stalk (rihlangi), with the player additionally opening and closing the calabash against his preferably bare chest’

‘Whereas the Tsonga, the Venda, and the Zambian Tonga generally employ a minor third tuning between the string sections, the Pedi use a major 2nd.  This type of musical bow, requiring no mouth-resonation, leaves the player free to sing. The physical manipulation of the instrument is simple, which also leaves the player free to dance—gourd-bow players are generally extroverts who owe their positions as much to personality traits as to musical ability.’ (Johnston: 1985)


Johnston, T.F., 1985. Meaning and function in Shangana-Tsonga musical instruments. Africa Insight, 15(4), pp.283-287.