Balafon history, context, and traditional performances
Below is some general balafon history that I send to my students. Hopefully, this provides some traditional context to several West African countries where it is played. I’ll let the info speak for itself and keep checking in on member conversations.
Important reminder: The video lessons I am uploading do not represent a traditional context or style I learned in Burkina Faso. I am using my own 4-mallet approach to connect rhythm ideas and grooves that can be played on any mallet instrument.
This instrument is similar to mine, except much better in tune! I also need to have my frame rebuilt. Notice how he holds the single mallet between his index and middle finger, which gives the player more energy and attack, kind of Burton-esque, minus the second mallet in each hand. The pattern is in a 2-feel and is lots of fun to hear and enjoy his happy mood!
Interesting duet also in a 2-feel. Notice the guy on our left playing it backward with the low register on his right. It could be because he may be left-handed. It could also be that sometimes they play a duet on one instrument, with the second player facing the first which would create a flipped orientation. Love how they sing as they play! Such freedom and fun!
Duet with djembe – oh yes, this is how melody and groove intertwine. These cats are the real deal.
Another Burkina Faso balafon, similar to mine, but much more stable and tuned! Need to have mine rebuilt and re-tuned. Singing while you play is very common and an essential part of the training and repertoire.
Also from Burkina Faso, in the city of Bobo Dioulasso where I studied. Another wonderful duet. These would make for wonderful duets on Marimba, yes??? Care to transcribe?? : )
Short and sweet — these two women are going to town – ouch!
Smaller instruments – a more portable design. 3 octaves with the top note reaching the octave (kinda rare in my observations)