(xylophone ou bakilo, katiboke, kilangay,
(The sticks are
hardwood like false camphor
cm, 49 cm, 48,2 cm, 42,5 cm, 34,5 cm (length)
of Art and Archeology of the University
of Antananarivo, Madagascar
I was able
to hear and see the atranatrana played at a party. I chose it
because I was very surprised by its extremely simple construction
and I wanted to share my discovery with you.
It is made from slats of hardwood (especially false camphor),
roughly hewn in unequal lengths. The number of sticks of wood
varies from four to eight, attached on both sides with a string.
The slats can be interchanged depending on the rhythm.
The atranatrana is placed flat on a woman's lap and struck with
two sticks made of the same material as the strips of wood. It
produces a very unique sound. The atranatrana is one of 23 idiophones
that can be found in Madagascar today.
The atranatrana or kilangay or valihambalo comes from Southeast
Asia and was introduced to Madagascar between the beginning of
the Christian era and the 5th century. Its name comes from the
fact that the woman who plays it has to sit bolt upright, stretching
out both legs that are naked and spread slightly apart to serve
as a resonator and support for the wood slats. This seated position
is referred to by the verb miatranatrana which means "to be seated
with pride". This was the origin of the name of the instrument,
The atranatrana is found in only a few places in Madagascar in
the southern and eastern coastal regions. The atranatrana may
be played for pleasure as well as for religious purposes. In the
Bara region, it was once played during the bilo ceremony but this
has gradually been abandoned.
Its primitive construction classes it as a folk instrument but
modernization has replaced the human resonator with a wooden soundbox.
These days, the atranatrana is classified as a modern instrument
and it can be played along with metallophones, even though its
sound is weaker, less high-pitched and less resonant. In contrast
to the antsiva, an instrument of the idiophone family played only
by a man, the atranatrana is played solely by the woman that serves
as its support.
Other women may accompany her. The atranatrana can be accompanied
by other instruments, especially the valiha, or by other atranatrana
of different sizes. The sound varies depending on the size of
each instrument. The smaller it is, the higher pitched its sound.
The atranatrana is used most often to play traditional popular
Each wooden slat has a name that corresponds to the diatonic scale:
tsibilo, sindry, sindry homana, valideniny or varinara. Unfortunately,
the meaning and origin of these names is still unknown.