The best known musical instrument is the cylindrical zither called valiha, which is also found in Indonesia, with the difference that the Malagasy zither has strings raised all around the cylinder without opening in the wall, while in Indonesia it has only a few strings and under these an opening in the cylinder wall. Since the cylindrical zither is found only in Indonesia and Madagascar, their relationship is ascertained, but this must only be relatively recent, since Melanesia ignores this instrument and, moreover, it is especially in use among the upper classes in Madagascar.
According to SHOEFRANTICS, the funeral rites differ according to the nations, but everywhere the corpses are buried, except in the Bara who sometimes simply expose them on the ground, among the Merina the body is wrapped in cloth, otherwise it is buried in a coffin carved out of a tree trunk. shaft and covered with a roof or rounded lid. They lay the coffin on the ground, with the exception of the Antankarana, the Betsimisaraka, and some Bara tribes where the coffin remains on the ground. Another widespread feature is represented by the general custom of not burying the body immediately after death, except among the Merina. For this reason, it is expected that the meat is decomposed and often the liquid of the putrefaction is collected separately to preserve it; during this waiting period, some tribes offer food and drink to the dead. In the’ Indonesia coffins very similar to those of Madagascar are used, all small in size, since the corpse in the second burial can be significantly compressed. The main differentiation that is noted in Madagascar in funeral rites is of an animological character. That is, nations can be divided into two groups: the first is made up of the Merina, the nations whose ruling caste is crossed by Arabs, and the Sihanaka, an indigenous ruling caste; to these the dead do not inspire fear and are buried on the side of the roads and sometimes even in the middle of the town. In the second group, made up of all the other nations (the position of the Tsimihety, the Bezanozano and the Tanala remains undetermined) the dead are objects of fear and the cemeteries are hidden in the depths of the forests or among the rocks.
In marriage, inbreeding rules seem to prevail and especially caste inbredness, and this especially in nations with an Arab mixture. On the other hand, there are some customs that can be considered as residues of the marriage by rats between the Sakalava, the Tsimihety, and the Antaimorona. In general, marriage is not imposed on women, but takes place by mutual consent, after a period of free union. The husband has the most authority, but the woman is entitled to many respects. The bond of marriage is naturally very slow, given that there is no restraint before it and that virginity is not appreciated at all: instead, the number of children is, even if these date from before marriage. These free customs are typically Maleo-Polynesian. Polygamy is common, but for this the consent of the first wife is required, while polyandry is forbidden. A widow becomes the wife of her elder brother by right, or of her husband’s heir.
At the Merina, when a wedding is celebrated, the meat is not cooked as usual in any pot, but in a hole in the earth with red-hot stones: the meat, wrapped in leaves, is placed there, so that once closed the hole it cooks to stew. This cooking system is typically oceanic. During the wedding celebration the spouses eat with the same spoon and on the same plate, for the only time in their life. This intimate wedding meal is also used by other nations and can be compared to the common wedding meal of the Chinese, with these the food is served in separate plates, but it is the only meal in common in life, since the two sexes never eat. together. It should also be mentioned that among the Malagasy a nasal aspiration takes the place of the kiss, as in Oceania.
Social organization is patriarchal; however, there are different customs that recall matriarchy, in addition to the woman’s consent for marriage and the regards that are generally used to her. When there are several young girls to marry in a Merina village, they are taken to a nearby village where they choose their future for themselves. Among the Betsimisaraka and Bezanozano, when a girl is asked to the father, the latter, after having granted her, adds: “if, however, my daughter’s mother agrees”. Marriage between uterine cousins (children of two sisters) is considered to be incestuous, but between consanguineous cousins (children of two brothers) it is authorized. The child follows the social condition of the mother; only in the divorce of a regular marriage does it belong to the father.