Traditional Musical Instruments: Paco Mbassi Reimagines The Age-old Xylophone

The artiste held an exhibition and musical concert in Yaounde on December 17, 2020 to promote the famous instrument.

The xylophone has from time immemorial been a common traditional musical instrument in many Cameroonian tribes. Yet, its use in local musical genres is not as popular. It was for this reason that the artiste and cultural promoter, Paco Mbassi, on December 17, 2020 held a xylophone exhibition. The event in the Quartier Mozart cultural hall in Mvog-Mbi, Yaounde was to showcase different types of the “Medjang”, “Njang” or xylophone. The exhibition was later followed the same evening by a musical concert at the same venue. During which Mbassi and colleagues entertained culture lovers with live performances using the modernized xylophone.

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Mbassi told Cameroon Tribune that the exhibition was meant to present the xylophone in its different forms – traditional and modernized. “The traditional xylophone is limited in the number of notes it produces. The modernized version I have produced is more sophisticated as it is able to generate more notes. Thus, it is easily adaptable for use in different musical genres,” Mbassi explained.

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The xylophone is made up of calabash gourds for resonation and sewn pieces of wood amongst peoples of the Centre and South Regions. But in the North West Region, only pieces of carefully wood species are used without calabash gourds. With changing times, the traditional xylophone needs to be remodeled to meet the demands of different genres of increasingly modernized music. Thus Mbassi’s quest to make the xylophone more encompassing and potable. Compared to existing versions that are heavier.

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“The xylophone is a wonderful musical instrument that needs to take its rightful place in Cameroon music. Though it is common amongst many Cameroonian tribes, it still has to be promoted. This is necessary because in you hear little xylophone notes in recorded Cameroonian music,” Paco Mbassi stresses. The modernised or chromatic xylophone is not however an invention of Paco Mbassi. Other artistes have produced it before, but Mbassi’s version is much lighter and easy to carry around, and can be used in any musical genre.

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Meanwhile, the artiste’s major project in 2021 is to produce a gigantic xylophone sculpture to be erected at spot still to be determined. “This will be my own contribution to promoting this great musical instrument,” he concluded.

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