Balafon - African Percussion Instrument




Originated from Mali, Balafon, Merimbau or African Xylophone are the different names given to this beautiful instrument. The instrument as well as the Karanyango (bell) was incorporated into the musical ensemble of the griots to accompany the Kora.

The tuning process is related to the language that is peculiar to each ethnic group or to the scales of their songs. Many variations are to be found within each tribal group.

The instrument is hand-made. The slats are generally made from a hardwood, and are carefully dried over a low intensity fire to achieve their deep resonance. The ends of each slat are burnt black with an iron to seal them. After the rough cut, it is necessary to fine-tune the keys to the desired pitches. The fine-tuning of the keys is accomplished by thinning the centre to lower the key's pitch and by thinning the ends to raise the pitch.

The balafon is played throughout West Africa. Its structure is basically similar, but difference in tuning, contour and modifications to amplification chamber (the calabash) will indicate what area it is indigenous to. These balafons are from Senegal and The Gambia. Played with mallets made from wood and rubber, this exotic instrument produces rich notes of the African voice.

21/22 key instrument. May need tuning to personal preference.

Dimensions: 42cm x 115cm
Weight: 9.5kg


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