The valiha is a tube zither from Madagascar made from a species of local bamboo; it is considered the "national instrument" of Madagascar.[1] The term is also used to describe a number of related zithers of differing shapes and materials.[2]

Valiha player in Ambohimahasoa.jpg
Valiha orchestra at the Paris World Exposition of 1931.
Valiha with larger diameter bamboo tube.

Aside from recreational music, the valiha is also used for ritual music to summon spirits.[3]


The valiha generally has 21-24 strings. Historically these were formed of strips of the bamboo body, prised up and raised by small bridges, but in the modern day the strings are often made of unwound bicycle brake cable, though serious players may use standard guitar or piano strings.[4] used for churches and folk bands

Historically the instrument was made of the bamboo Valiha diffusa, but in the modern day "bamboo species with longer internodes" are used.[5]

A variant instrument, the marovany, is similar in concept but boxlike rather than tubular, and made of wood or sheet metal.[4]


One of the most celebrated valiha players of the twentieth century is Rakotozafy (born 1938).[6] The majority of Rakotozafy's few recorded performances were made live at the central studio of Malagasy Radio. Sylvestre Randafison is another celebrated valiha artist considered a cultural icon in Madagascar.[7]

See alsoEdit


  • Adams, Rashid Epstein. "The Making of a National Instrument: Imagery, Symbolism and the Social Function of the Malagasy Valiha", Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XLIII/1-2 (2018), 141-157.


  1. ^ Bruno Nettl (1985). The Western impact on world - change, adaptation, and survival. Schirmer Books. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-02-870860-7.
  2. ^ Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (11 January 2013). The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Routledge. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-136-09570-2.
  3. ^ Hans Austnaberg (2008). Shepherds and Demons: A Study of Exorcism as Practised and Understood by Shepherds in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Peter Lang. pp. 158–. ISBN 978-0-8204-9717-4.
  4. ^ a b Elijah Wald (2007). Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music. Taylor & Francis. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-0-415-97930-6.
  5. ^ Dominique Louppe (2008). Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: Timbers / ed.: D. Louppe ; A. A. Oteng-Amoako. General ed.: R. H. M. J. Lemmens .... 7. 1. PROTA. pp. 573–. ISBN 978-90-5782-209-4.
  6. ^ American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers. The Guild. 1993. p. 22.
  7. ^ Sylvestre Randafison Obituary, The Independent, 20 August 2003

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