Nyanga Panpipe Workshops

The extraordinary sounds of nyanga panpipes are native to the Nyungwe people from the Tete district of Mozambique. Nyanga ensembles often consist of fifty or more musicians who play panpipes, sing, and dance. The rhythmic complexity, interlocking parts, and cyclic form that characterize this music are common features of music from sub-Saharan Africa.

Each phrase length, or cycle, in a nyanga performance has 24 pulses. When performing the most basic foot pattern, the musician steps every fourth beat; however, the main panpipe parts consist of a three-pulse pattern in which the musician plays a note on one beat, sings a note on another, and rests on the other. To add to the complexity, the panpipe parts start at different points in the cycle, creating a continuous sound of both panpipes and voices.

There are more than twenty different panpipes in a traditional nyanga ensemble, with each panpipe consisting of between two and five tubes. Some of the players additionally wear leg rattles fashioned from tin cans around their right legs. These musicians perform various dance steps while simultaneously playing their panpipe parts, creating intricate polyrhythms.  A lead singer, who sings social commentary, also calls out various dance steps between cycles. A women’s choir may also add to the texture.

Although the performance of nyanga is challenging for most non-Nyungwe, it is possible. Furthermore, it is an excellent way to develop coordination, practice polyrhythms, and work towards rhythmic independence.

I began my nyanga training at the Cincinnati Conservatory, where I performed in the conservatory’s nyanga panpipe ensemble for four years and periodically assisted in the direction of the ensemble. Part of my nyanga training included a World Music Symposium with Patricia Sandler, a disciple of the renowned African music scholar Andrew Tracey. While on faculty at Miami University I directed the school’s first nyanga ensemble as part of the Andean and African World Music Ensemble that I pioneered. I also founded the Baltimore World Music Consortium, which specializes in the performance of various panpipe genres from around the world.

If you would like to engage me for a nyanga panpipe workshop, please complete the contact form.

Nyanga Panpipe Audio Example
Baltimore World Music Consortium, Lori Kesner, director

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