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.
We are planing an extension period to be listed soon to include a trip to Abou Sylla's village in Guinea where he and other artists and historians will bring to life the magic balafon. I have never met an artist who knows more about the history and current playing techniques than Abou Sylla. I hope some of you will join us on this extension as we get to see yet another village and see how different and how they are very similar.
The Balafon (BA-la-fone), also known as a bala, or balafon, is built and tuned to serve as a legitimate high-end, professional instrument, made in Guinea or Mali we import them for our shop at DrumConnection, Boston MA.
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, bright and soothing to the soul.
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
• NEW! We also carry the haré wood bala made from part of Guinea where there is no water in the wood so no baking the wood in the drying process. I recently had a chance to play one and was given to me. They are more resonant and they are nice and buzzy. Cost is considerably more but for a once in a lifetime instrument it is well worth it. Both kinds are good!
• 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.
Lancinet Conde, great balafon instructor and musician formerly of Les Ballet Africains. Video: Alan Tauber