Musical Instrument Glossary K

Kabaro – Popular single or double-headed drum. Played with the hands. Also known as kebaro or kebero. Ethiopia.

Kabosy – A short lute in the shape of a box. Madagascar.

Kagura suzu – A hand held bell tree composed of three levels of jingle bells. Japan.

Kaiambarambo – A bundle of resonant grasses. Madagascar.

Kakko – A small, highly ornate drum. Japan.

Kalyuka – Russian and Ukrainian overtone flute.

Kamaycha – Vertically held string instrument. It typically consists of nineteen strings, three of gut for melody, two of brass for drone, and fourteen of steel for sympathetic resonance. India.

Kamele ngoni – West African harp made from a dried calabash gourd covered in sheep skin. The gourd resonator is attached to an arched wooden neck strung with 14 strings. Kamele ngoni means young person’s ngoni and is played primarily in the Manding region of Burkina Faso and Mali.

Kane – A gong or large bell. Japan.

Kanganu – A tall and narrow barrel drum. Ghana.

Kalimba – African thumb piano. The sound is produced by the vibration of tongues of metal or wood. Although the name Kalimba is used in northern Zimbabwe, it is sometimes used as a generic name for any type of African lamellaphone or thumb piano.

Kamanche – A small Central Asian, Georgian and Armenian knee fiddle, bowed like a cello, with four metal strings and four sympathetic strings that belongs to the violin family of instruments. Even though it is almost the size of a violin, the kamanche is held upright. It is very popular in traditional Persian music. Name variations include kemancheh, kemancha and kemence.



Kanjira – Single headed tambourine used throughout Southern India.

Kankle – Lap zither closely related to the Latvian kokle, Estonian kannel, Finnish kantele, and Russian gusli. Lithuania.

Kantele – Zither with 40 strings. Finland.



Kanun – An ancient Middle Eastern instrument. This stringed instrument, similar in look to a zither, has a total of 72-75 grouped strings that are tuned flat and then raised or lowered in small semitone increments using a series of latches. Name variations include qanun, kanon, kanoon, kanoun, quanoon, qanoun.

Karamudza – Greek double reed instrument sometimes played in pairs. Also known as pipiza, zounardi and zurnas.

Karataky – A double-headed cylindrical drum from southern Madagascar.

Karimba – A 15-key thumb piano from Zimbabwe with a round wooden plate upon which the instrument is mounted and affixed with a semi-circular wooden wall around the instrument to act as an amplifier. It uses a high resonance wooden soundboard upon with a bridge is implanted on the upper part of the instrument.
The metal reeds used as sound source are laid over the bridge and using a metal bar. A strand of wire us sued to bind the reeds under the bar. A metal plate, with a bottle cap affixed to it, is mounted on the lower portion of the sound board to provide a rattling sound. The rattle provides the percussive element in the music. Name variations: kalimba, mbira. Zimbabwe.

Karinyan – A small ribbed iron pipe that is struck with an iron bar that produces a high pitched ring. It’s played by female jeli (poet singers). Mali.

Karkabas – Large metal double castanets handmade from iron or steel. Karkabas are often used by the Gnawa. Name variations include K’rkbs, Qarkabeb, Krakebs, qraqeb, garagab, qaraqsh, qaraqueb, qarkeb. Morocco.

Katra – Rattle, Madagascar.

Katsa – Rattle. Madagascar.

Kaval – A long, end-blown flute from Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia. It is made in various sizes from 15 to 50 cm in length. It can be made out of different materials: cane, wood, bronze, iron, bone, and plastic. The kaval is held at a slightly oblique angle toward the right, so that the player’s breath will strike the sharply angled lip of the instrument on the opposite side, thus producing sound.

Kawala – A six-hole cane flute used in traditional music. Egypt.

Kayagum – A 12-string zither. Also known as gayageum. Korea.

Kyungso Park, Korean gayageum performer Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Kyungso Park, Korean kayagun performer
Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Keleli – A two or three string long necked lute. Chad.

Kei – Large gongs used in Buddhist ceremonies. Japan.

Kendang – Balinese drum. Indonesia.

Kengirge – Large Tuvan frame drum. The sides of the kengirge are made of goat skin. The drum heads are tapped with the fingers or struck with a mallet.

Kenken – The metallic bell attached to a dunun drum.

Kete drums – A set of four drums from the Ashanti region. Ghana.

Khan Be – The khan be is a sixteen reed bamboo mouth organ native to the Isaan people of northeastern Thailand and Laos. It can also be found in regions of the highlands of northwest and south central Vietnam. Source: Khac Chi.

Khartal – A pair of lightweight rectangular wooden blocks played by the hands. India.

Khomus – Tuvan jew’s harp. Russian Federation.

Khöömei – Tuvan name for overtone and throat singing.

Kidi – Ewe stick drum. Ghana.

Kiroba – `Are`are music for sound play on water. Solomon Islands.

Kissar – Box lyre. Egypt.

Ki un Ki – A wind instrument used by the Siberian tribe of the Udegeys. It is a two meter long stalk. The tone is by inhaling and the instrument has no finger holes so the pitch can only be altered by lip pressure.

Klapites – Clapper. Latvia.

Klarino – clarinet. Greek

Kloboto – Short open-bottom barrel drum. The Totodzi is smaller than the Kloboto. Ghana

K’longput – The k’longput is another instrument unique to Vietnam. It is made from a series of large bamboo pipes of varying lengths, each closed at one end. The pipes are placed on their sides with the open ends facing the musician, who has no direct contact with the instrument. Instead, the performer cups both hands and claps quietly in front of the open ends of the pipes, forcing air down the pipes to produce low resonant sounds. The k’longput is native to the Bahnar people of the central highlands, who are said to have created it after hearing the wind blowing into the openings of bamboo in the forest. Source: Khac Chi.

Kobsa – Plucked lute.

Ko-daiko – A small Japanese drum.

Kokle – lap zither. Latvian

Koko – Wooden clappers of the Mbuti people (Central African Pygmies).

Koliosnaya lira – hurdy gurdy. Russian

Kologo – a plucked lute with a skin membrane that some consider as the predecessor of the American banjo. Ghana.

Komun-go – six-string zither. Korean

Komuz – A three stringed lute. Kyrgyzstan

Konghou – Chinese harp.

Konkovka – Slovak overtone flute.

Koni – A small traditional four-stringed lute in the form of a teardrop (Gambia). Also known as ngoni in Mali.

Ko ni – The ko ni is a special form of stick fiddle found only in Vietnam. It was developed from the one-string violin of the Jarai people who live in the south central highlands of Vietnam. The modern ko ni has two strings. The player sits, holding the instrument between both legs. The ko ni does not have a resonating chamber or sound box. Rather, the strings are attached by silk cords to a small bamboo or plastic resonating disc that is held in the player’s mouth. The player’s mouth acts as the resonating chamber, and precise movements of the lips and tongue create a broad range of tonal colors and emotional expressions, giving the ko ni its unique sound. Source: Khac Chi.

Kono – Strummed lute. Ghana.

Kontingo – West African lute. Also known as xalam, halam, ngoni and koni.

Kopuz – A Central Asian Turkic short lute. Kobuz, Kobyz, Koboz, Qupuz .

Kora – A West African harp lute with 19 strings, popular in Gambia, Senegal and Mali. It has a skin stretched across a large gourd, a wooden neck and gut or nylon fishwire strings stretched across a tall bridge. It is played in a similar way to a harp. The kora is traditionally played by jelis or griots (oral historians and musicians) such as the Diabate/Jobarteh, Sissoko/Cissokho, Kouyate/Kuyate, Tounkara, Suso and other families in West Africa.

Mamadou Diabate playing the kora - Photo by Angel Romero
Mamadou Diabate playing the kora – Photo by Angel Romero


Korholt – Short Renaissance reed instrument. Germany.

Korintsana – Rattle or shaker, usually made from either a sealed bamboo tube or a tin can on a stick, filled with dried beans. Madagascar.

Korng tauch – Small gong circle. Cambodia.

Korng thomm – Large gong circle. Cambodia.

Koryaga – A one stringed instrument with a string fixed on a curved branch of a tree. The sound is made by a violin bow or plucked, and the notes are changed with the use of a wire bent over the branches’ ends. It was created at the end of the 20th century by Moscow designer Uri Balashov.

Kosha kosha – Rattle. Mozambique.

Kös – Large kettle drum. Turkey.

Koto – A 13 string zither. It is the longest of the long zithers of East Asia, about 1.8 meters (6 feet) long. The instrument is laid horizontally with waxed silken strings stretched tightly over movable bridges along the length of the instrument. The koto is plucked using ivory picks called tsumen. Japan.



Kotsuzumi – Small hand drum. Japan.

Kpanlogo – Barrel drum with pegs, with an antelope skin drum head. Ghana.

Kpoko-Kpoko – Double ended wooden bell rattle. Nigeria.

Krar – A six-string bowl-shaped lyre. Ethiopia.

Kucheng – A 16 or 21-stringed zither. It is currently the most popular plucked traditional Chinese instrument in Taiwan.

Kugikly – Reed panpipe. Russia.

Kultrun – Sacred Mapuche (indigenous Chilean) drum.

Kum – Seven-stringed zither used in court music. Korea.

Kumi-daiko – A taiko drum ensemble. Japan.

Kundu – Hourglass shaped drum. Papua New Guinea.

Kupurra – Drum. Mozambique.

Kurai – A long Bashkir flute made out of grass. Russia.

Kuri-nuki-daiko – A drum carved from a log. Japan.

Kurukutu – A small hourglass Hausa drum with goat skin and a gut snare. It is played with two leather sticks. Ghana.

Kutiriba – A medium-sized Mandinka (Gambia and Senegal) drum. It is played with one hand and a short stick. The top is covered with goat skin.

Kutirindingo – A small Mandinka drum. It is played with one hand and a short stick. The top is covered with goat skin.

Kyey Naung – Brass gong. Myanmar.

Kyey Se – Triangular gong. Myanmar.

Kyl-kyjak – A two-string fiddle with a bow made out of horsehairs. Kkyl-kyjak was widely played by performers who often acted as a one actor theater, producing the whole range of sounds of nature and humans. Kyrgyzstan.


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