Also:       né      nege      karinyan      

Contextual Associations

The né is tubular-bell idiophone of the Mandinka people of Gambia. In Mandinka culture the only instrument that women of the hereditary jeli caste (jelimusolu) may use is the né, and they employ it to accompany their singing. Jelimusolu were traditionally, and still are today, essential participants in important Mandinka life-cycle events (such as the child-naming ceremony called  kulio), and with them comes the né. These singers are still extolled as the best singers, and a very good male musician may be said to “sing like a women,” connoting the beauty and quality of his singing. See the ensemble entry ‘Jeliya Instruments of Mandinka Hereditary Musicians from The Gambia’ for more context.


The né (meaning ‘iron’) is a tube-shaped bell. This instrument is made from a thin, rectangular plate of iron rolled into an unclosed tube. A string, which is used to hold the instrument, is tied to an iron rod that curls back on itself at one end to make a loop through which the string is tied. The other end terminates in a dull point.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The né is held across the palm with a string around the middle finger and struck with the iron rod. This produces a sharply decaying, high pitch that, due more to its timbre and tessiture than volume, can penetrate a thick musical environment. It may be played in conjunction with a number of other accompaniment instruments.


Unfortunately, mention of the né has only relatively recently been made, so nothing is known of its origin and dissemination.

Bibliographic Citations

Charry, Eric. 2000. Mande Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Knight, Roderic. 1973. "Mandinka Jaliya: Professional Music of The Gambia."  Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Los Angeles.

________. 1984. "Music in Africa: The Manding Contexts." In Performance Practice: Ethnomusicological Perspectives, ed. Gerard Behague, pp. 53-90. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Piskor, Mojea. 2002. "The Importance of Being a Jali Muso." Ntama: Journal of African Music and Popular Culture.


Instrument Information


Continent: Africa

Region: West Africa

Nation: Gambia

Formation: Mandinka

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

111.231 idiophone--individual percussion tube struck either with a non-sonorous object (hand, stick, striker) or against a non-sonorous object (human body, the ground)

Design and Playing Features

Category: idiophone

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Basic form of sonorous object/s for idiophone: tube - open ended with longitudinal opening in wall

Sound objects per instrument: one

Resonator design: sonorous object itself is a general resonating space

Number of players: one

Sounding principle: striking - direct

Sound exciting agent: beater/s - metal rod

Energy input motion by performer: hammering

Pitch of sound produced: indefinite pitch

Sound modification: none


7.75 in. length (bell) 1 in. average diameter (bell) 7.75 in. length (beater)

Primary Materials




Entry Author

Gaelyn Hutchinson