Mangbetu musicians often performed to entertain their communities. Singing songs about their travels and heroic deeds performed by their elders.
Central to these songs is the domu harp. While it has been attributed to many peoples over the years, the domu most certainly originated with the Mangbetu, first appearing in their culture around the late 19th century.
The harp is traditionally held in the left hand and played with both. The sound-box rests on the players’ lap.
Many domu harps feature a carved head. These carvings have evolved over the years, perhaps in response to interest from Europeans and other tourists. As Domus became more intricate, tuning and playing them became increasingly difficult. Today, they are coveted mainly as art rather than working instruments.
Another potential reason for their musical demise is linked to the deaths of Queen Nenzima and King Yangala. The heads of the harps are said to represent the king and queen. And some elders claim that the use of the domu as an instrument declined after their passing.