Gyil (pronounced JEE-lee) is one of the grandparents
of the mallet keyboard family. It is made from fourteen wooden
slats that are suspended, on a frame, over calabash gourds. Its
sound is like the Western marimba, yet more œearthen” in
character. It is the national instrument of the Lobi and Dagara
people of Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cüte DÃIvoire.
Throughout West Africa, the people believe that its œwoody” sound
comes from a vibration of water that physically balances the
water in the bodies of humans and animals.
gyil is used for everything in life; from weddings and funerals to
dances and everyday recreation. Nearly every man and boy in the community
can play at least a tune or two on the gyil. Yet the qyil master
(an instrument maker as well as a player) studies the instrument
for much of his life before he is considered worthy to represent
his community at sacred events.
its counterpart, the western marimba, the gyil has a vast repertoire
of solo and chamber music, passed in this case orally from father
to son for centuries. The gyil tradition has set the tone for the œmelody-improv-melody” form
common in Jazz. Even youngsters who play the instrument are expected
to remembercomplex pieces and improvise according to dance movements
and singerÃs directives.
Mandara Music Gyil Transcription Series features
some of the best-known pieces for this instrument. These are the
only published transcriptions of one of mans first and most
complex solo mallet instruments.
Please visit the writings area
for more information about the Gyil.