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Musical Instruments of the Indigenous People of South Africa

Author: Percival Kirby

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Percival Kirby was one of the greatest South African musicologists and ethnomusicologists. Born in Scotland in 1887, after completing his studies at the Royal College of Music in London he came out to South Africa as the Music Organiser to the Natal Education Department. In 1920 he moved to Johannesburg as acting Professor of Music at the then University College. He was soon appointed Professor of Music and stayed at the University of the Witwatersrand for 30 years. Kirby was a conductor, timpanist, flautist, composer, teacher, musicologist, scientist and artist. As well as researching and writing on African music, he wrote the definitive book on the wreck of the Grosvenor.

The book Musical Instruments of the Native Races of South Africa, first published in 1934, was the culmination of these research trips. It has become the standard reference on indigenous South African musical instruments, but has been out of print for many years. This third edition, with a revised title, contains an introduction by Mike Nixon, Head of the Ethnomusicology and African Music programme at the South African College of Music, and new reproductions of the valuable historic photographs by Paff and others, but leaves Kirby’s original text unchanged.