This article places ethnographic fieldwork in Zimbabwe into dialogue with over a century of literature on the ground-bow throughout sub-Saharan Africa. I begin by arguing that the term “ground harp,” which is technically correct according to the rigid demands of Western organology, has obscured the instrument’s multivalent relationships to other African musical bows. I proceed to illustrate how the ground-bow’s reach extends far beyond the equatorial region commonly identified as its historic distribution zone. I argue that several specific disciplinary orientations have contributed to obscuring the actual extent of the ground-bow’s distribution. Among them, I discuss ethnomusicology’s long-standing bias against the study of children’s music and an unevenly applied discourse of “ethnomusicology at home” that risks consolidating European and American perspectives while further marginalizing non-Western—and particularly African—voices. I conclude by discussing the social dimensions of the ground-bow, which is nearly universally described as a children’s instrument.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.