What role might a balafon play in a West African ensemble?
As the balafon cultures vary across West Africa, so does the approach to the instrument itself. In many areas the balafon is played alone in a ritual context, in others as part of an ensemble. In Guinea and Mali, the balafon is often part of an ensemble of three, pitched low, medium and high.
Who plays the balafon?
On a recent Monday, Balla Kouyaté plays the balafon in his mother-in-law’s living room in Quincy. We met here because there was construction in his nearby Medford home. Kouyaté has been in the United States for about 20 years since emigrating from Bamako, the capital of Mali.
What is the meaning of balafon?
: a West African xylophone with gourd resonators.
How do they play the balafon?
The balafon is amplified by small gourds underneath the keys, with small layers of film covering holes to create a unique buzzing sound. Some people say it sounds like an electric keyboard! One hand typically plays the lower half, and the other hand plays the upper half.
What is the most distinct feature of balafon?
The distinctive principal form of a balafon comprises a hide-strung bamboo or timber frame supporting a single linear array of tuned hardwood keys with calabash gourds suspended below. It is these suspended gourd resonators that set the balafon apart from other African xylophonic instrument forms.
What role does a balafon play in a performance?
The balafon, as well as the kora, was used to create music in praise of the kings and for ceremonies of importance.
What do you call a hand piano or thumb piano used by Africans?
The Mbira or African thumb piano (other identifying names include: kalimba – contemporary term; the most popular term is either sansa, or mbira) is a percussive instrument originating from Africa. Performers pluck or stroke the keys with the thumbs.
What is the balafon used for?
What family is the balafon from?
Introducing the Balafon 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).
Is the flute a wind instrument?
The woodwind family of instruments includes, from the highest sounding instruments to the lowest, the piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon.
Which instrument is most likely to be played at West African religious meetings and ceremonies?
Drumming Drums play an important role in West African culture. Drummers perform at parties, religious meetings, and ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals. West African drums are made of hollowed-out logs or pieces of wood.
What is the most distinct feature of mbira?
The mbira consists of a series of tuned metal or bamboo tongues (lamellae) attached at one end to a soundboard that often has a calabash or box resonator. For a rattling tone colour, the tongues are often fitted with buzzing metal cuffs, or metal bottle caps may be affixed to the soundboard or resonator.
Where did the balafon come from in Africa?
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. “I can remember when I first heard someone playing the balafon in The Gambia, many years ago – I was transfixed; the skill and speed of the playing was outstanding.
Who was the first person to play the balafon?
The Griots, or Jelis as they are more commonly called in The Gambia, were the praise singers and court musicians of the Mandinka Empire. Stories of the first balafon, given by a spirit to Sunjata, and the first balafon, player seem to date from this time.
Who is the best balafon player in the Gambia?
A fine example of a modern Gambian balafon player, Sefo Kanuteh, currently lives in Norwich. He plays both the balafon and the kora and his music is a good example of the modern influences on West African music. Chris Sylla has been studying and teaching West African music since she made her first trip to The Gambia in December 2000.
Why was the balafon so important to Sundiata?
Bala is vital in assisting Sundiata overcome Soumaoro which explains the importance of the Balafon to the royal courts. Griots don’t work for kings and aristocrats exclusively. They also play important roles in villages. Griots are used to recite the history of births and deaths, battles and marriages in a village.