Music of the Luo

Discover the traditional music and instruments of the Luo people

By National Museums of Kenya

Musical InstrumentNational Museums of Kenya

Meet the Luo

The Luo are the fourth largest ethnic group in Kenya, and are particularly known for their musical skills and instruments. The Luo have unique traditional music that plays a functional role in their lives. 

Luo Funeral Mask by Joy AdamsonNational Museums of Kenya

The Luo play music at all important events. During funerals, Luo music is played to pay tribute to the deceased as well as consoling the family. Traditionally, diviners and medicine men also used music to invoke rain, chase away evil spirits and heal the sick.

Musical rattleNational Museums of Kenya

Traditional musical instruments include drums, rattles, horns, the Abu and stringed instruments like the Nyatiti.

AbuNational Museums of Kenya

The Abu

The Abu is a traditional Luo musical instrument, made of several gourds stuck together using beeswax, and tied with the bark of the 'powo' (grewia) tree. The Abu was traditionally made and blown by men, producing a deep, loud sound for entertainment during important ceremonies.

Musical InstrumentNational Museums of Kenya

The Nyatiti

This eight stringed musical instrument is locally known as 'Nyatiti'. It is a plucked bowl yoke lute, which was traditionally played for entertainment.

Fly whiskNational Museums of Kenya

Fly whisk

This fly whisk was made from an animal's tail and fitted with a wooden handle. It was used by women during traditional song and dance ceremonies. It was also used by diviners to send off bad spirits, and in other instances it was used to bless people.

FiddleNational Museums of Kenya

The fiddle

This fiddle is a musical instrument made from a tin covered with leather skin and tied with a wire. It was played by men to produce melodic sounds.

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