The highly diverse and distinctive music of Madagascar has been shaped by the musical traditions of Southeast Asia, Africa, Arabia, England, France and the United States as successive waves of settlers have made the island their home. Traditional instruments reflect these widespread origins: the mandoliny and kabosy owe their existence to the introduction of the guitar by early Arab or European seafarers, the ubiquitous djembe originated in mainland Africa and the valiha—the bamboo tube zither considered the national instrument of Madagascar—directly evolved from an earlier form of zither carried with the first Austronesian settlers on their outrigger canoes.
Malagasy music can be roughly divided into three categories: traditional, contemporary and popular music. Traditional musical styles vary by region and reflect local ethnographic history. For instance, in the Highlands, the valiha and more subdued vocal styles are emblematic of the Merina, the predominantly Austronesian ethnic group that has inhabited the area since at least the 15th century, whereas among the southern Bara people, who trace their ancestry back to the African mainland, their a cappella vocal traditions bear close resemblance to the polyharmonic singing style common to South Africa.[3] Foreign instruments such as the acoustic guitar and piano have been adapted locally to create uniquely Malagasy forms of music. Contemporary Malagasy musical styles such as the salegy or tsapika have evolved from traditional styles modernized by the incorporation of electric guitar, bass, drums and synthesizer. Many Western styles of popular music, including rock, gospel, jazz, reggae, hip-hop and folk rock, have also gained in popularity in Madagascar over the later half of the 20th century.
Music in Madagascar has served a variety of sacred and profane functions. In addition to its performance for entertainment or personal creative expression, music has played a key part in spiritual ceremonies, cultural events and historic and contemporary political functions. By the late 19th century, certain instruments and types of music became primarily associated with specific castes or ethnic groups, although these divisions have always been fluid and are continually evolving.
(wikipedia)

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