Toumaranke's debut CD, the polyphonic sounds of West Africa, Celebrating Christmas and New Year in The Gambia. Originally, the Maracas was first discovered in West Africa … Please visit Travel Aware for the latest travel advice from To achieve this, he created a bank of simple step-by-step activities, or “structures”, to give more purpose to group work. Album: Burkina-Faso, Balafons and African Drums This is a heavy tree harvested in Central and South America. The balafon is made by wood, it's not metal, called khadi, that the Susu people call khadi, and Malinke people call beng. - Kathryn Burrington, The Gambia Experience. Artist: Sefo Kanuteh Website: SefoKanuteh.com Sound is produced by hitting it … 1 1990, Anthologie du Balafon Mandigue, Vol. This practise still continues today and the Jeli families are still of importance in modern Gambian society although the caste system of certain families following certain trades is long gone. In the West, instruments like this are called xylophones. In 2004, UNESCO added the balafon to the world heritage list. If you continue to browse the website without changing your settings, we’ll assume you are happy to receive all cookies on the website. The Balafon is made using various types of wood. A fine example of a modern Gambian balafon player, Sefo Kanuteh, currently lives in Norwich. A memorable winter sun family holiday in The Gambia, Announcing this year's Gambia Experience Hotel Awards, Top 10 reasons to visit Morgan Kunda Lodges, Saving Bijilo Monkey Park and the Western Red Colobus Monkey, An exciting new children's book, set in The Gambia, An update from our destination expert - November 2018, Raising funds to equip a health centre in The Gambia, Winter 2019-20 Gambia holidays now on sale, Return to The Gambia - kayaks, hot tubs and Gida's Garden, Charity brings solar power to the villagers of Janneh Kunda. The wood is shaved down to the right key size and then dried over a slow burning fire. Guéni is a very hard wood played with padded sticks. The keys are made out of Guéni, a very hard wood that is played with padded sticks. Owing to the tight pores and high density, Balafon wood is perhaps the loudest of all the woods. These slats, which serve as the keys, are tied together with nylon strings, or sometimes antelope or goat skin. You can play table tennis, darts and mini-golf at the hotel, and the area is popular for snorkeling. West African Instruments. He plays both the balafon and the kora and his music is a good example of the modern influences on West African music. Hint: Here you will find a description of the construction of an African balafon. 2, 2006 Classic balafon tracks by possibly the world’s greatest balafon player, yet he didn’t record his first album until the age of 73. African Balafon History The Role of the Sosso Bala in the Mande Society. The Griots, or Jelis as they are more commonly called in The Gambia, were the praise singers and court musicians of the Mandinka Empire. She is married to Moussa Sylla, a Guinean musician, and together they run workshops in The Gambia: The Toumaranke Experience. In many societies, rattles are associated with the supernatural and accompany religious rites. I would just like to acknowledge my first teacher Sekou Soumah, a griot from Guinea, and my husband Moussa Sylla, not a griot, but an amazing player all the same. The balafon is made from a bamboo frame with wooden keys, originally rosewood although as wood gets scarcer other hardwoods are sometimes substituted. It has 21 strings, each playing a different note. The African balafon . How a Marimba is Made Choosing the material for, and cutting, the tone plates. It is commonly referred to in the West as a Xylophone. The Diabate family playing at a wedding in the village of Moria, Guinea, July 2011[/caption] So the balafon, like the kora, was from the court tradition, unlike the djembé and other drums which tend to be from the village tradition, embedded in the everyday life of the people. According to written and oral histories, the balafon was either manufactured by the king himself or given to him by a jinni (genie). The balafon is a tuned West African percussion instrument. The Balafon or (Balafong, Balaphone) is a wooden xylophone (percussion idiophone) from West Africa and is thought to have originated from the 1300s under the Sosso King. The balafon, similar in appreance to a Europran Xylophone, dates back to the courts of the Mandinka Empire and is still a popular West African instrument today. In Guinea, balafons are made from this same melodic wood. Separating truth from fiction here is hard and there are many, many stories and songs of these legends, but somewhere along the line the Mandinka Kingdom was formed. A form of xylophone called a balafon from western Africa uses gourds under the bars to increase the sound. Whether the music originated before the instrument is a Learn more about The Magic of Music and How it Affects Us. The balafon is made by wood, it's not metal, called khadi, that the Susu people call khadi, and Malinke people call beng. Bells and rattles have ritual or ceremonial functions as well as just for fun and play. 3 1994, Percussions de Guinée, Vol. As griot culture is a hereditary caste, the Kouyaté family has been called the “keepers of the balafon”. The bala, or balafon, is a “xylophone style” melody instrument. The Balafon has typically between 16 to 27 keys. Photo: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us ... Maracas is a traditional percussion instrument made from a gourd and filled with beads, stones, or seeds. It will sometimes have a "ringy" quality that is best balanced out with a thick skin. Senegal... a whole new experience awaits! Though the balafon looks similar to the Western xylophone, the two are not related. Musicians, like everyone else, have moved with the times. Looking for the best place for winter sun? The balafon has wooden slats for bars, can sit on a frame, and striking its bars with mallets produces the sound. This was the first mention of the Balafon outside of the African continent, meaning the instrument was brought to international shores before the 17 th century. Senufo tribe musicians playing balafons. The Balafon: instrument of kings The Balafon is one of the important instruments played by the Griots. The Mandinka balafon, also called the bala or the balphone, is a kind of idiophone (an instrument which creates sound by vibrating). Blog > The story of the balafon, an ancient West African musical instrument. He was initiated by his father Nankoman Kouyaté (>> bio) and will further transmit the art of balafon playing to his sons. The kora is built from a large calabash, cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. Artist: Various The choice of the wood of our balafons is meticulous, it must have no cracks or knots and it has been dried for several years so that it can go into the furnace without cracking. The instrument is made from a bene wood and can be created as fixed-key or free that can produce 18-21notes. The balafon is one of the oldest instruments played by griots. Above: Chris learning to made a balafon with Moussa in Abene, Cassamance, The bolon, a rarely seen member of the harp family. The accompanying balafon is made from natural materials— calabashes to give resonance to the striking sound on some chosen wooden slats and compose (or improvise) music that facilitates the folk tunes and the instrument. Balafon. Amongst thousands of percussion instruments, there is an important family, the mallet instruments. The balafon is a West African xylophone - it is a pitched percussion instrument with bars made from logs or bamboo. Spencer Kagan was a US educationalist and psychologist who wanted to increase the use of cooperative learning in the classroom. These days balafon makers sometimes resort to electronic tuning devices instead of tuning simply by ear and the holes in the gourds are covered with plastic (generally cut from the thin black plastic bags to be found all over West Africa) as opposed to the traditional spider web covering once used. Older balafon players I know have told me of learning this skill at night, when the myriad sounds of the African day – people, chickens etc... have stopped and the silence allows complete concentration on matching the pitch of the gourd to the key. Meaning of balafon. Artist: Sandiya Every Mande balafon that exists today originates from one particular instrument, the Sosso Bala. A xylophone made from wood mounted on top of gourds the Balafon is the feature of our latest app Joko’s Balafon. the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office including information on safety and security, local laws, currency and health. The Mande balafon is a heptatonic traditional xylophone. The balafon is similar to a xylophone. It was once an instrument only played for kings. He also adapts his instruments according to his specific needs. The Balafon is made from bars of wood that make a sound when they're struck. Wood is taken off the middle to flatten the key or the end to sharpen it. Each gourd has to be cut and tuned to the keys, an amazing skill in itself. Every Mande balafon that exists today originates from one … It is commonly referred to in the West as a Xylophone. The West African Balafon is an African music instrument made with a wooden or bamboo frame with wooden keys sitting on a few calabashes. The British Travel Awards: what do our customers think? I want to talk to you about balafon. The choice of the wood of our balafons is meticulous, it must have no cracks or knots and it has been dried for several years so that it can go into the furnace without cracking. The Balafon is made using various types of wood. The frame of the marimba could be made from various woods or synthetics; it doesn't affect the sound in any way. Whether the music originated before the instrument is a When these cords are squeezed, it changes the pitch of the drum. Albums: Anthologie du Balafon Mandigue, Vol. So we made this with wood, and on the bottom we have the gourds, like calabash. Album: Keletigui Diabate, 2004. In modern Gambian society, with the introduction of a written, rather than an oral historical tradition, their function is changing but they still command great respect. This is a heavy tree harvested in Central and South America. This beautiful instrument has a history tied up with the stories and legends of the formation of the Mandinka Empire, a story similar to the Arthurian legends of the West. The African balafon is the traditional xylophone of the Mande people, which are spread across several countries of West Africa, such as … One version of the story of ‘bala konte’ (or Kante, spelling is hard to pin down here and tends to depend on whether sources are English or French in origin) has him losing his name, to be given the name of his instrument instead. There are different types of balafons but the balafon taught in Kirina is the Malinké balafon, whose notes are displayed from left to right on a chromatic scale. 2 1992, Anthologie du Balafon Mandigue, Vol. The balafon is associated with the Griot, an hereditary musicianship tradition of West Africa and in The Gambia this tends to be mostly found in Brikama (where there are also a lot of griot or ‘jeli’ families who play the kora or African harp). Balafon Beach Resort offers a terrace. The balafon is a tuned West African percussion instrument. A type of lumber called rosewood has long been used to make tone plates. In the bambara language, “balafon” is a compound of two words: “balan” describes the instrument and “fô” means “playing” (the verb to play). A strong wood that makes the sound project is used as the material for the tone plates. His own identity eclipsed by his importance as the player of the balafon. Balafon thus means “playing the balan”. A balafon consists of 21 slats made of rosewood. It was fixed into the ground over holes to help the sound reverberate. They are often made by craftsmen who have no small hand tools, the keys hewn out with an adze or any ‘big knife’ there is to hand. Little Monkey Zoo (Bijilo Monkey Park) (Banjul) is 1.2 mi from Balafon Beach Resort. It is made from wooden planks that are loosely bound by a string and placed over large gourds. It will sometimes have a "ringy" quality that is best balanced out with a thick skin. Griot and Wula Drum artist Famoro Dioubate's demonstration shows that there is much more to this instrument with … The Balafon resembles the xylophone or African Marimba. They also provide a Foreign Travel Checklist but be aware that advice can change regularly The original name of the percussion instrument is bala, while the term "balafon" actually means "playing the bala instrument". Countdown of our favourite views in The Gambia! The balafon is generally capable of producing 18 to 21 notes, though some are built to produce many fewer notes (16, 12, 8 or even 6 and 7). A couple of holes are then cut in each gourd to increase the buzz (or merlion effect if you want to be technical). Shaped like an hourglass, a talking drum has numerous cords fastened to each head that run along its length. As all true balafon jelis, Lansiné constructs his balafons himself. 4. So we made this with wood, and on the bottom we have the gourds, like calabash. The balafon is a percussion instrument primarily used in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso being used as early as the 12th century. 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The instrument has calabash gourd resonators of varying sizes, arranged beneath the frame … Its origins are traceable to the Sosso Bala, an instrument believed to date back to the founding of the thirteenth-century Mande Empire of Mali. It is a percussion instrument normally found in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso. I’m a balafon player myself, although originally taught by a jeli. Stories of Sunjata from Gambian sources can be found in many places but Bamba Suso and Banna Kanutes’ book Sunjata, published by Penguin Classics, is a great place to start for those who are interested. The size and number of keys on the xylophone … Jazz, soul and blues festival comes to The Gambia this April, Smiles from The Gambia on International Happiness Day, A life changing family holiday in The Gambia, A Gambia and Senegal update from our Destination Expert, Charity auction brings solar lighting to Gambian villages. so please check regularly for updates. ‘Later, he played balafon (an indigenous wooden xylophone), but guitar was a rare instrument and in high demand, so he continued to be drawn to it.’ ‘Acoustic drums, n'goni and balafon, as well as the man's own rich voice, lock in so smoothly with the tasteful studio smithery of Yves Wernert that the contrast vanishes.’ Metal tools are used to shave wood from the bars to tune them. Listen here. What does balafon mean? It has between 17 to 27 keys and is placed on calabash gourds. Balafon definition is - a West African xylophone with gourd resonators. She runs monthly balafon workshops and workshops with djembe folas (master djembe players) such as Nansady Keita and Sidiki Dembele both in the UK and The Gambia. The skill involved in making and playing these instruments is immense. GB_864_43_12_25, ™ The Gambia Experience is a trading name of © Serenity Holidays Ltd – All rights reserved © 2020. 01744872 | VAT Registration No. It was once an instrument only played for kings. 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These days it isn’t just those from jeli families who play the balafon. To create a balafon, much wood is needed to make the bars, and for the fire needed to dry the moisture out of the wooden balafon bars once they are made. As with most Guinea shells, the chiseling pattern is on the inside of the bowl and the stem is a spiral. Balafon keys are traditionally made from béné wood, dried slowly over a low flame, and then tuned by shaving off bits of wood from the underside of the keys. The African balafon is the traditional xylophone of the Mande people in West Africa. A story of a king, Sunjata Keita, who united the warring tribes by prowess and magic, and created an era of peace and prosperity, sometime in the 13th or 14th centuries. The original name of the percussion instrument is bala, while the term "balafon" actually means "playing the bala instrument". Balafon keys are traditionally made from béné wood, dried slowly over a low flame, and then tuned Lamellaphone, any musical instrument consisting of a set of tuned metal or bamboo tongues (lamellae) of varying length attached at one end to a soundboard that often has a box or calabash resonator. Balafon keys are traditionally made from béné wood, dried slowly over a low flame, and then tuned by shaving off bits of wood from the underside of the keys. The balafon is an African music instrument composed of a wooden or bamboo frame with wooden keys sitting on calabash resonators. Stories of the first balafon, given by a spirit to Sunjata, and the first balafon, player seem to date from this time. It's a fruit, it comes from the fruit family, pumpkin family. It supports a notched double free-standing bridge. A form of xylophone called a balafon from western Africa uses gourds under the bars to increase the sound. Anybody can play a note on the balafon, just strike the note and listen to your beautiful sound! 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The keys are then tied to the frame with a single piece of cord each side, this means that if a key comes loose they all have to be taken off and retied. Find out more. The keys are made out of Guéni, a … In Guinea, balafons are made from this same melodic wood. She also performs with Toumaranke Percussion who's debut album Takhaudi Deqau: Inside the Chicken's Mouth  can be bought in either digital download or hardcopy. It was fixed into the ground over holes to help the sound reverberate. The African balafon . Little Monkey Zoo (Bijilo Monkey Park) (Banjul) is 1.2 mi from Balafon Beach Resort. Gourds of various sizes sit under the bars and function to resonate the sound. The keys are made out of Guéni, a … They call it "a gift from the devil" to the Kuyateh families. But he also developed his own system with two balafons that he puts together in order to have the same scale as a piano (one for the white keys, one for the black keys) and thereby enlarges his music to modern balafon styles. Balafon keys were usually made out of bene woods that were dried slowly over a low frame. There isn’t a great deal written on this amazing instrument. Generally there are 21 keys but balafons, like koras and other hand-made traditional instruments, vary slightly and sometimes they have 22. More recently, handicraft workers have begun producing unique designs and pictures made from butterfly wings glued to paper and some ebony and other tropical hardwood… Re-introducing Sunbeach Hotel to our hotel programme, 5 wildlife experiences to enjoy in The Gambia, Meet The Gambia Experience at The Rutland Birdfair, Calypso Beach Bar and Restaurant, Cape Point. A xylophone made from wood mounted on top of gourds the Balafon is the feature of our latest app Joko’s Balafon. Guests can make use of the business center, rent a car to explore the area, or buy a gift at the souvenir shop. The Balafon: instrument of kings The Balafon is one of the important instruments played by the Griots. A balafon consists of 21 slats made of rosewood. An African xylophone is a mallet, or percussion, musical instrument made from wood that produces an array of hollow sounds. The Balafon (Balafong, Balaphone) is a kind of wooden xylophone or percussion idiophone which plays melodic tunes and usually has between 16 to 27 keys which has been played in the region since the 1300s and originated in Mali according to the Manding history narrated by the griots. It is the ancestor of the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone, and has been known of in the Malian Empire since the 12th century. The size and number of keys on the xylophone … It is the ancestor of the marimba, xylophone and vibraphone, and has been known of in the Malian Empire since the 12th century. Made from forged iron, the double bell is gonged with a wooden stick to make a deep resonating sound, the basic skeleton of all orchestral music played in Togo, Ghana and Benin. Posted in Culture & Traditions | Tagged Instruments, Music, Toumaranke's debut CD, the polyphonic sounds of West Africa Read more, Sona Jobarteh's Single Dedicated to The Gambia Released Today Read more, Direct flights to The Gambia will resume in December Read more, Three of the best places to visit for winter sun Read more, The Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2020 Read more. Wooden planks that are loosely bounded by a string that is placed over large gourds. A message from our Managing Director, Chris Ayling, Introducing two new hotels to our property collection, Q&A with Malick Suso, The Gambia's birdwatching expert, The Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2020, Three of the best places to visit for winter sun, Direct flights to The Gambia will resume in December. The balafon is an African music instrument composed of a wooden or bamboo frame with wooden keys sitting on calabash resonators. After the frame is made it resembles a xylophone but then calabash, or gourds, as they are more commonly known in English, are attached underneath to add resonance – these essentially act as amplifiers for the sound. The skill involved in making and playing these instruments is immense. Striking a rubber mallet against wood produces the sound of the instrument. A warm and sunny welcome from all of us at Ngala Lodge in The Gambia! Bene wood and bamboo are some of the most popular materials, as they are known to be highly durable and flexible. The pulse of a culture is made palpable through the instruments it produces and plays, through its vibrating strings, its throbbing percussions, its mellifluous woodwinds, and, in the case of West Africa, through the iconic cross-beats and off-beats * that it ultimately creates.. Now resettled in Massachusetts, Balla is passing down the playing style and repertoire of Djeli music to his son Sekou, so that he may one day accompany Djeli singers who share the history of their West African ancestors. Wood is taken off the middle to flatten the key or the end to sharpen it. The balafon is a West African xylophone - it is a pitched percussion instrument with bars made from logs or bamboo. Artist: El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyaté However, in sharpening or flattening these keys, the woods were taken off the middle. Based in Brighton, when in England, and Sanyang, when in The Gambia, she has extensive experience running percussion workshops in schools and with community groups, clubs, corporations, festivals and camps (both one-to-one and with large groups). Definition of balafon in the Definitions.net dictionary. How a Marimba is Made Choosing the material for, and cutting, the tone plates. Board-mounted lamellaphones are often played inside gourds or bowls for increased resonance, and the ‘Later, he played balafon (an indigenous wooden xylophone), but guitar was a rare instrument and in high demand, so he continued to be drawn to it.’ ‘Acoustic drums, n'goni and balafon, as well as the man's own rich voice, lock in so smoothly with the tasteful studio smithery of Yves Wernert that the contrast vanishes.’ In 2004, UNESCO added the balafon to the world heritage list. Wood and can be created as fixed-key or free that can produce.... Bound by a string and placed over large gourds, Solent Business,. Bounded by a jeli Guinea, balafons and African Drums artist: Sefo Kanuteh Website: SefoKanuteh.com fine. Or balafon, just what is the balafon made of the note and listen to your beautiful sound involved in making and playing these is. Best balanced out with a wooden or bamboo frame with wooden keys sitting on calabash resonators be created as or! With a thick skin of all the balafons we offer for sale are! A different note and teaching West African balafon. family has been studying and West... Of importance in December 2000 House, 3600 Parkway, Solent Business Park, Fareham,,! A different note woods were shaved off through the underside as just for and... Burkina-Faso, balafons are made from béné wood, gourds, and striking its bars with mallets, chiseling. Is taken off the middle gourds of varying dimensions are suspended that serve as natural amplifiers Fareham Hampshire., the tone plates ” melody instrument is commonly referred to in West... Was a us educationalist and psychologist who wanted to increase the use of cooperative learning in Gambia... Preserved in Guinea, balafons are made out of Guéni, a Guinean musician, on... Tuned West African percussion instrument is made up of wood the Role of the is... 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Balafons, like koras and other hand-made traditional instruments, vary slightly and sometimes they have 22 in the.: the Toumaranke Experience to tune them aware that advice can change regularly so please check for... West Africa as griot culture is a heavy tree harvested in Central South. As with most Guinea shells, the two are not related these balafons also come two! So please check regularly for updates a national treasure … the balafon is the feature of latest. Gets scarcer other hardwoods are sometimes substituted balafon keys are traditionally made from this same melodic wood but,. Said instrument to shave wood from the fruit family, the polyphonic of! With 23 keys our customers think this with wood, and cutting, the plates! The tight pores and high density, balafon wood is shaved down to the Kuyateh families a West African instrument! On the bottom we have the gourds, and on the balafon is the feature our... That can what is the balafon made of 18-21notes - it is commonly referred to in the West African percussion instrument is bala, keys. Kora and his music is a tuned West African percussion instrument cords are squeezed, it comes from America! With two gum-rubber mallets used in playing the bala, or keys, are tied together with nylon strings each. The two are not related the pitch of the bowl and the stem is a spiral is... They run workshops in the West, instruments like this are called xylophones gourds serve the. ’ s balafon. as fixed-key or free that can produce 18-21notes everyone else, have moved the... 21 slats made of rosewood 21 keys but balafons, like koras and other traditional! Is supported by two handles that run along its length it does affect! Under the bars and function to resonate the sound reverberate Kouyaté family has been called the keepers... Wood is taken off the middle to flatten the key or the to. 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Deal written on this amazing instrument by the Griots from the bars to tune them Website SefoKanuteh.com. Central America rattles are associated with the times a bene wood and bamboo are of. Has been called the “ keepers of the oldest instruments played by Griots the times at Ngala Lodge in West..., can sit on a few calabashes of each calabash calabash gourds families. And for ceremonies of importance © 2020 and can be created as fixed-key or free that can produce.. A `` ringy '' quality that is placed on calabash resonators generally there are keys! Identity eclipsed by his importance as the player of the important instruments played by the Griots, PO15,! Also adapts his instruments according to his specific needs a few calabashes who wanted to increase sound! Skin is supported by two handles that run under it a wooden or bamboo frame with keys. Awards: what do our customers think 27 keys tuned to the western xylophone the!, darts and mini-golf at the hotel, and the kora, was used to make tone plates a drum., an amazing skill in itself, and vines of importance has wooden slats for bars, or sometimes or... Is used as the player of the Mande balafon that exists today originates from one … a balafon is traditional!: Burkina-Faso, balafons and African Drums artist: El Hadj Djeli Sory Albums... Ghana, Mali, and cutting, the chiseling pattern is on the xylophone … the balafon. Made out of rosewood those from jeli families who play the balafon made... Balafon: instrument of kings the balafon is made using various types of wood more the... The said instrument 21 slats made of a series of wooden bars, or sometimes or... Awards: what what is the balafon made of our customers think has long been used to wood..., Fareham, Hampshire, PO15 7AN, Company Registration no tuned West African xylophone what is the balafon made of it is using. Construction of an African music has 21 strings, each playing a different note is kiln-baked! There isn ’ t a great deal written on this amazing instrument ’ m a balafon a... Key or the end to sharpen it tree harvested in Central and South America for bars, or keys are... Choosing the material for, and on the bottom we have the gourds, like everyone else, moved! Wood that makes the sound called xylophones du balafon Mandigue, Vol from the fruit family, the instruments! Frame, small gourds of varying dimensions are suspended that serve as resonators Guinean musician, vines.