The valiha is a tube zither from Madagascar made from a species of local bamboo; it is considered the "national instrument" of Madagascar. The term is also used to describe a number of related zithers of differing shapes and materials.
The instrument has been held in high regard among the Malagasy particularly in the Merina rule over the island that having long fingernails ideal for plucking its strings were marks "distinguishing the aristocracy from the labourers". Aside from recreational music, the valiha is also used for ritual music to summon spirits.
Historically the instrument was made of the bamboo Valiha diffusa, but in the modern day "bamboo species with longer internodes" are used. The bamboo poles used for building the valiha are chosen between diameters of 5 to 10 cm and preferably cut within a length of 35 to 180 cm.
The valiha generally has 21-24 strings. Historically these were formed of strips of the bamboo body, prised up and raised by small calabash or wooden bridges that also act as movable tuners, but in the modern day the strings are often made of unwound bicycle brake cable tied through nails, though serious players may use standard guitar or piano strings used for churches and folk bands.
One of the most celebrated valiha players of the twentieth century is Rakotozafy (born 1938). The majority of Rakotozafy's few recorded performances were made live at the central studio of Malagasy Radio. Sylvestre Randafison is another celebrated valiha artist considered a cultural icon in Madagascar.
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