Bowl Lyre

A small bowl lyre-harp from Kenya

The story

A recent symptom of my obsession with finding obscure instruments on Marketplace. This lyre was described as originating from the Akamba / Kamba people of Kenya, but based on some investigation online and via musician friends in Kenya, lyres like this aren’t really part of that tribe’s musical traditions. There are a number of bowl lyres in Kenya, including the Litungu and Nyatiti, but without knowing exactly which this is I’ve opted for the more general ‘Bowl Lyre’ name. The instrument itself is quite small and was probably intended either as an ornament or a child’s instrument, however it still has quite a nice sound on most strings so I was determined to make a viable sample instrument. The instrument came without a bridge, which may or may not be traditional – however, this percussive sound didn’t translate very well to samples. Using an old mandolin nut, I made a makeshift bridge in order to record more ‘harp-like’ resonant tones. Both the non-bridge ‘muted’ and bridge versions are included here via keyswitch, but I think the unmuted form would be preferred for most uses. As adding a bridge shortens the effective vibrating length of the strings, the range of the unmuted version sits slightly higher. I have occasionally encountered a weird ‘slapback’ type effect in the reverb with unknown cause – this can be resolved by going ‘under the hood’ and tweaking the ‘size’ knob of the reverb effect doesn’t matter how you change it, any touch immediately eliminates the issue which is presumably some bug in the Kontakt reverb.

Reviews for Bowl Lyre

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  • This has incredible potential!

    Just by pressing one key, I realised this little one is trully unique. I absolutely love the character of the entire instrument, and along with the round robins and dynamics, it sounds very nice, with an eastern character to it. It would be even better with some noise reduction, especially with better cropped tails. The timing of the attack could also be a little more responsive.

    The two articulations sound very nice, although it would be good if there was an indication in the UI to see what articulation is currently active. It would be also nice to see the actual active range depending on the articulation, because right now, the rangers are different, though both are displayed at the same time.

    And speaking of UI, you will find full ADSR settings, along with a Reverb, though as a note, I found that the Release setting is not working in the Muted keyswitch, which is kind of important since the release is very sudden by default, something that won't be an issue in midi programming.

    Alex Raptakis20 March 2022
  • This is Cool!

    I know it's simple, but this instrument has a great sound! This instrument would be impossible for me to find in a music store, but Eamon has given me the ability to access its sound through the magic of the internet! Please excuse me while I make some chill, lofi, study music with this Bowl Lyre.

    obolig14 March 2022