Studies of the musical instruments of Africa by Kirby, Wachsmann, Maquet, Solderberg and others, have demonstrated that, in addition to drums, examples of all the main classes of musical instruments are to be found in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to drums, there is a wide variety of idiophones (including xylophones), as well as various types of lutes, zithers, flutes, etc.
In spite of this variety, there appears to be a widespread tendency to use these instruments not in large heterogeneous ensembles, but in homogeneous ensembles, or in limited combinations in which one type of instrument predominates. There are, for example, ensembles of drums or xylophones, ensembles of flutes or trumpets, or ensembles in which these are combined with “secondary” instruments—usually of a percussive nature. Here and there a flute, a fiddle or a lute may be found in a secondary role in an ensemble, with the function of providing particular effects or enriching the texture of the music.