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Balafon presentation

Balafon history

We can say that the balafon is in a way the ancestor of the xylophone, marimba or vibraphone. This instrument of African origin dates back almost 9 centuries.

In Niagassola, in the north of Guinea, close to the Malian border, a balafon is preciously preserved and guarded by a family of griots; it is the “Sosso-Bala”. Without doubt the first of all the balafons.

The balafon consists of a frame on which there are often around twenty wooden blades of decreasing length. Each calabash corresponds to a calabash, the longer and thicker the blade, the larger the calabash, which serves as a resonator. The characteristic vibration of the sound of the balafon is due to the holes drilled in the calabashes, these holes are covered with cigarette paper or pieces of trash bags that vibrate when the musician taps on the instrument’s blades.

The different types of balafon

There are many kinds of balafons. Indeed, handcrafted, each balafon is unique in its shape, range, weight, size. In Guinea, for example, the balafon is generally quite flat with a range of C, F (with 1 B flat), G (with 1 F sharp). Diatonic scales (7 wires), the C range corresponds to the white notes of the piano.

For example, in Burkina Faso the balafon is often bigger with larger calabashes with a pentatonic range (5 threads) Do Ré Mi Sol La or Do Ré Fa Sol La … When you play on a pentatonic you can’t really making false notes, on the other hand it is more difficult to have original ideas because of course there are few notes.

The Marimba is the closest instrument to the balafon of a part of form and its sound. But the balafon retains all its nobility because the sound it provides is unequaled. The playing technique is very different, the repertoire is also fundamentally different.

Where to buy your balafon ?

I advise you our partner Baragnouma: https://www.baragnouma.com/fr/3-les-balafons

“The BaraGnouma company was created in 2003, but Fabrice Berre, the founder, started to import and sell instruments from West Africa to France in 1999.

Specializing in the production of traditional Mandingo-inspired musical instruments (West Africa). Since its inception, the company began offering its products online in 2007.

The workshop

The BaraGnouma workshop which means “The job well done” or more precisely “the good job” in the Dioula language, offers only high quality products all produced in its enclosure by its regular workers.

The activity is in Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina-Faso, an essential cultural crossroads in West Africa. A large part of its employees are themselves griots or caste blacksmiths.
Each instrument we offer is unique, indeed, all our instruments are cut by hand. We always insist on quality and finish, not performance.

The company

The company naturally respects all the obligations of the regulations in force in the country. Whether at the level of taxation, social charges and all other taxes such as water and forest authorizations, export certificates, certificates of origin and health certificates for shipments.

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