Flute, Balaphon, Gongoma

There will be time and availability to study the tambin (Fulani flute), Balafon, or Ngongoma. If you wish, during the day or even evening, we may as a group or individually take lessons in these native instruments. Even one session in each is recommended.


There will be a slight fee to the instructor for these extra activities. Give as much as you can as always with Guinean masters.

The Balafon (BA-la-fone), also known as a bala, or balaphone, is built and tuned to serve as a legitimate high-end, professional instrument, imported from Guinea and Mali. Each instrument is built by hand using traditional tools and techniques. The accurate tuning of the Haré blades is impressive, and the sound created with the buzzing gourds is enchanting and bright.

Tuning is standard heptonic with major diatonic tonality in the key of C, D, or F (depending on inventory, please inquire if specific tuning is required). Each bala comes with a pair of natural gum mallets, our money back guarantee, and the following features:


• 20-22 blades per bala covering about three octaves

• Haré wood keys, hand tuned and smoked to dry and seal and prevent pitch warping

• Strong bamboo, hardwood, and sinew frame.

• Accurately sized gourds with plastic-covered holes for the buzzing effect 

• Played with natural gum mallets

• Tuned blades typically in heptonic key of C, D, or F, though in some cases non-heptonic tuning is available. 

• Usually built in Guinea or Mali

The Ngongoma (Gongoma) is a thumb Piano from Guinea - West Africa, composed of half a calabash (gourd). The calabash is hollowed and a piece of light wood is assembled on top. 


It has between 3 to 6 saw blades cut to different lengths.


The tuning can be made by pushing the blades towards or away from the opening. 


Usually held around the neck with a strap, the instrument is played by rhythmically tapping the top, bottom or side with one hand with or without a metal ring, while the other hand plays musical patterns from the blades. 


Other thumb pianos are found throughout Africa, generally all wooden made, and of a much smaller size, because of a different origin.


The Guinean version Ngongoma is a fairly recent instrument that emerged from some of the pioneer musicians in Conakry, who got inspired by another similar instrument played down south in Sierra Leone.


As with many Guinean instruments, various decorations representing villages or the moon or sun are painted on the natural calabash.

The Tambin (also sereendu, fulannu) is a diagonal diatonic flute without a bell, made from a conical vine, with three finger-holes and a rectangular embouchere with two wings on either side. It is considered the national instrument of the West African Fula.






Other Instruments


Schedule of Classes