reed, light wood or plastic
10 to 40 cm (varies depending on the region
where it was made) x 1 à 2 cm
of Art and Archeology of the University
of Antananarivo, Madagascar
has a history not only of customs and civilization but also of
traditional and modern music. Each instrument has an owner, a
maker, a provenance, a shape and a genre. I have chosen the sodina
from the various categories of instruments that exist in our country
to show readers and music lovers how it developed and its place
in the life of Malagasy artists.
The recorder or end-blown flute is a woodwind instrument. It can
"pierce the wind" better than any other wind instrument. It is
called the sodina by the Malagasy and is found in almost all the
regions of the island. It is called sody or soly in the province
of Tuléar, sodina in Antsiranana and the highlands (Merina), kisody
in Morondava, antsodina in Mahajanga, kiantsody in Betsileo and
soly or fololitsy in the Androy region. These names have most
certainly been borrowed from the Malay word "suling".
Actually, according to a book discovered in Madagascar about the
origins of the Malagasy and their civilization, the Malaysian,
Indonesians and Muslims are their ancestors and the sodina originates
from these crowds of immigrants.
Generally speaking, the sodina is made from a tube of high-quality
reed called voloando or volovato, a bamboo with fairly thick bark.
The knots of the bamboo are spaced very wide apart, attaining
60 cm. The sodina is held at a 45-degree angle, generally to the
left. The length of the instrument varies between 18 and 50 cm.
It has six upper openings and one lower. It is possible to play
two chromatic scales on this instrument : a minor (from the main)
or a sharpened key (by bevelling into the major).
In the beginning, the sodina was made of bone and only afterwards
in wood and then tin. Often, the band leader makes his own instrument.
Each band, called a mpitsoka sodina, includes a sodina together
with two inseparable drums called the ampongabe and langoro. Sodina
can play various musical genre including popular traditional folk
music and modern music. They also play to entertain during family
events such as second burials (famadihana), circumcisions (famorana)
and at social gatherings. The sodina sold in the market are only
It is not necessary to read music to play the sodina. The musician
presses his lips lightly on the upper opening only, forming them
into a "U". The player blows into the instrument, adjusting his
breath to the desired sound. The music that is thus released transports
listeners to a marvellous world of feelings, dreams and laughter.