Musical instruments: B’ita

In Baskeet, a variety of instruments are used exclusively during mourning ceremonies but never played at weddings or other happy occasions, among them are different types of wooden and horn trumpets. This is the third blog post portraying a “mourning instrument” – see the first post on the nookka-trumpet here and on the rattles played during the mourning ceremonies here.

Today, I’d like to introduce the b’ita to you. It is a wind instrument made from the horn of an antelope. Unfortunately, I am unable to say for sure from which species the horns are taken. In my survey of musical instruments in Baskeet I could find the following two types: The first b’ita, which is owned by Wondu Sooddo (from Bayo-Boraza-Borgalla), was made from an animal called gabar in Baskeet (possibly a Menelik’s bushbuck):

B'ita (Owner: Wondo Sooddo)

B’ita (1): Mourning instrument made from an antelope horn

Here you can listen how the above instrument sounds: Recording: b’ita (1).

In Ganshir, Taye Tabtittso showed me a smaller (slimmer) model, made from a different antelope horn. The owner told me that it was made from an animal called doga in Baskeet (maybe a waterbuck):

B'ita (2): instrument made from an antelope horn

B’ita (2): Mourning instrument made from an antelope horn

The b’ita has only two holes, a mouth hole drilled into the horn through which the air enters, and a hole through which the air leaves. The tone of the flute is modified by narrowing or closing and opening the latter hole, as the following short video shows:

Like other “mourning instruments”, the b’ita is played during the processions (called korz in Baskeet) that lead up to the house of a deceased person’s family on the day after the deceased’s burial. Groups of men of one clan, led by their clan leaders, carrying spears, singing mourning songs and sounding the trumpets, enter the deceased’s compound to express their grief and to participate in the mourning rituals. The b’ita-trumpet does not accompany the mourning songs (i.e. it does not support or play the melodies of the songs) but it just helps to create the soundscape of a mourning event.

P.S.: Comments from zoologists (and lay zoologists) on the possible origin of these horns are very welcome!


Acknowledgments: I am grateful to Taye Tabtittso and Wondu Sooddo for showing me how the b’ita is played.
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4 Responses to Musical instruments: B’ita

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