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Although Diana Powell-Cotton collected this instrument in Somalia (Italian Somaliland), it is a characteristic Nubian lyre associated with a Shaigiya tribe from Khartoum (Sudan). The kisir (or kissar), also known by the Arabic names "tanb?ra" or "tanb?r," is usually associated with important ceremonies or rituals, and is considered to be a descendent of the Greek lyre kithara. Technically, it is a large lyre made from a wooden bowl over which is stretched an animal skin (soundtable) laced with twine cord. Two arms pierce the soundtable at the top and are laid down over the bowl edge at the bottom. The soundtable is stretched over the bottom of the arms, and has two soundholes. The arms are joined at the top by a crossbar, also made of a wooden dowel, in which five cotton-twine strings are tied, along with cloth, forming rings that can slide along the crossbar to change tuning. The strings converge at the bottom, being secured with twine, and there is a large bridge made of horn (bridge is disassembled, wrapped in kraftpaper, and attached with twine to the strings to prevent from being lost). Above the crossbar, there is another wooden crossbar or frame that contains diverse attached objects and fabrics associated with the instrument's history and ritualistic symbolism, such as small mirrors, feathers, prayer beads, and two Italian flags, which are probably related with the Italian presence in Somalia.

  • Date:
  • Maker:
  • Collection:
    Powell-Cotton Museum
  • Inventory number:
  • Place of production:
    Somalia Coast (South of Jamaame)
  • Hornbostel-Sachs classification:321.21 Bowl lyres
  • Culture:Shaigiya
  • Period:
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  • Specific materials/techniques:
  • Decorative elements:
  • Inscriptions:
  • Hornbostel-Sachs category:321.21 Bowl lyres
  • Repository:Powell-Cotton Museum
  • Measurements:Height: 960mm; Width: 870mm; Depth: 160mm