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May 25, 2022 - 6:00:44 PM
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4 posts since 5/25/2022

Howdy,

I took lots of notes off YouTube and managed to create some facsimile of a Gambian akonting. It's pretty cool, actually, but there is no information anywhere on how to tie the knows to attach the strings to the neck, nor where to place the knots so it is approximately in tune. I saw a video from Paul Sedgwick but it was lo-res and it ran out before it got to how to space the strings. Anyone have any other resources before I fly to Gambia?

Thanks, Darren

May 26, 2022 - 10:01:57 AM

137 posts since 12/27/2019

canoelover , took a peek at your akonting build -- well done!

I went down a similar akonting rabbit hole during the past year. We have likely watched all the same videos. I do recall seeing one video showing how the strings were tied onto the neck. When I get a chance I'll see if I can locate it again.

What that showed me, though, was how much I did *not* want to use that method for fixing the strings -- no matter how "traditional" it may be. I've worked with nylon strings enough to know how much they stretch. Getting them tuned up and stable with the tie on method seems like an unimaginable aggravation.

And, after all, nothing really traditional about nylon strings anyway. Yes, most of the contemporary makers in Africa do use nylon fishing line now. But, from what I recall seeing in the videos, most are now using some kind of peg tuners in the neck, too.

One fallback you might consider: is to use three hose clamps on the neck. Run the string under the clamp and anchor it by looping around the screw post. To tune the string, loosen the clamp slightly and slide it up the neck with your thumbs, then re-tighten. This should be way less tedious in practice than the tie-on method.

As for it being "traditional", well you know if you've ever been to Africa just how genius Africans are in using whatever scraps they have on hand, just to make things work ;>

Someday I would like to have/make an akonting like the one you have built. Such a beauty! In the meantime I'm using a banjo kit from Brian Carver, only strung with three strings instead of five.


May 26, 2022 - 10:12:35 AM

137 posts since 12/27/2019

This page gives some suggested dimensions for string placement on the neck:

http://dennishavlena.com/akonting.htm

May 26, 2022 - 2:47:38 PM

138 posts since 2/7/2017

Not sure about placement, but contemporary western builders often use violin style friction pegs oriented at various angles to the neck.

May 26, 2022 - 3:13:42 PM

4 posts since 5/25/2022

quote:


As for it being "traditional", well you know if you've ever been to Africa just how genius Africans are in using whatever scraps they have on hand, just to make things work ;>

Someday I would like to have/make an akonting like the one you have built. Such a beauty! In the meantime I'm using a banjo kit from Brian Carver, only strung with three strings instead of five.

I built a gourd banjo and it's a lot of fun. 

I sell canoes and kayaks for a living (www.rutabagashop.com) and I always giggle at people who think that a sealskin kayak or birchbark canoe is "better." I own a birchbark canoe, but I can tell you if the native Algonquins had Kevlar and resin, they would have used it for sure.  :-)

I decided after not being able to tune the bugger to get some cello pegs and a reamer. 

Next project: a Kora.

May 27, 2022 - 6:48:45 AM

4 posts since 5/25/2022

quote:
Originally posted by OldTymeBanjo

Not sure about placement, but contemporary western builders often use violin style friction pegs oriented at various angles to the neck.


https://www.ebay.com/itm/115278394549?hash=item1ad720b4b5:g:UUQAAOSwiHtiIcDH&var=415310192582

I did it. Jujube wood is from Asia, not Africa, but I like the color better than ebony. I bought reamer too since this will not be my last one I build.  :-)

May 27, 2022 - 5:28:42 PM

138 posts since 2/7/2017

quote:
Originally posted by canoelover
quote:
Originally posted by OldTymeBanjo

Not sure about placement, but contemporary western builders often use violin style friction pegs oriented at various angles to the neck.


https://www.ebay.com/itm/115278394549?hash=item1ad720b4b5:g:UUQAAOSwiHtiIcDH&var=415310192582

I did it. Jujube wood is from Asia, not Africa, but I like the color better than ebony. I bought reamer too since this will not be my last one I build.  :-)


Did you nail the neck to the skin? I think just the rawhide is supposed to hold it on. By the way, I made a Pygmy Coho kayak kit once, might make a stitch and glue "gourd" banjo sometime. I'm also fascinated by the kora, there's a BBC series called "Handmade in Africa" that shows one being made.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000m2dj

Jun 16, 2022 - 3:14:19 PM

4 posts since 5/25/2022

Two copper tacks through the skin on each end of the gourd. I saw someone in Gambia do that, but it's pretty much held in place by the skin.

An I just found another perfect gourd. So the I made first is going to a professor of music at the UW here. She does African music stuff and I thought she'd like it.

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