The begena  is the oldest of Ethiopia's musical instruments, and is a direct descendant of the harp played by King David.

 According to oral tradition, Menelik I brought the instrument from Israel, where David played it to soothe King Saul's nerves. Its provable origin remains in doubt, though local manuscripts depict the instrument at the beginning of the 15th century . 

The begena is used primarily  during meditation and prayer. The singer may compose his or her own texts or they may be taken from Christian religious texts. 

Even though the begena has ten strings, only six are actually sounded by plucking. The remaining strings are used for the finger rests allowing the plucked string to vibrate freely.

The begena is characterized by a very specific buzzing sound, due to U-shaped leather pieces placed between each string and the bridge. 


The krar or kraar is a five- or six-stringed bowl-shaped lyre from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The instrument is tuned to a pentatonic scale. A modern krar may be amplified, much in the same way as an electric guitar or violin. 

The krar can be played in two ways: in the first (called muting) the left hand mutes the unwanted strings while the right hand strums with a plectrum; in the second, the fingers of the left hand pluck while the right hand plucks a drone on tonic strings (i.e., tuned to the tonic, or focal note, of the melody). 

He has a collection of old spiritual and love songs full of wise words sung in his native tongue. His voice is resonant, the instruments a perfect accompaniment.

Temesgen has invented a 10 stringed krar.


The Masinqo  is a single-stringed bowed lute commonly found in the musical traditions of Ethiopia and Eritrea. As with the krar, this instrument is used by Ethiopian minstrels called azmaris.  

Although it functions in a purely accompaniment capacity in songs, the masenqo requires considerable virtuosity, as azmaris accompany themselves while singing.


The washint is an end-blown wooden flute originally used by the Amhara and Tigray people in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Traditionally, Amharic musicians would pass on their oral history through song accompanied by the washint as well as the krar, a six stringed lyre, and the masenqo, a one string fiddle.

The washint can be constructed using wood, bamboo, or other cane. Varieties exists in different lengths and relative fingerhole placement, and a performer might use several different flutes over the course of a performance to accommodate different song types. It generally has four finger-holes, which allows the player to create a pentatonic scale.