3-Day Summer Institute Program in Kindia. The Summer Institute will cover the various processes of constructing and playing the Balafon, from July 26th – 28th, 2023, in Kindia, Guinea.

*with Lassana Diabate and Youssouf Bangoura


Program description:

Day 1

The name of the balafon comes from “bala fo,” which means in Mandinka “to play the bala” (or balani in Bambara). It is an instrument made with the help of cut pieces of wood. The balafon is a type of xylophone (or, in the Hornbostel Sachs system of classification, struck idiophone) which has five to seven different sound levels. It was first born in the 12th century in the kingdom of Sosso, between Mali and Guinea.


Our summer institute program consists of three days of programming.:

On the first day, participants will visit forest sites to identify the tree that is used to make the balafon. After having identified it, participants will learn how to obtain authorization from the competent authorities to use the tree. As well, participants will learn how to cut the tree and make the keys. We will also see how to produce the calabashes, which are used to shape the sound of each balafon. This includes how to boil calabashes, how to reduce the temperature of the calabashes after boiling and how to turn the calabash into a blade. We will see how to build a frame which is used to lay the blades; how to tune the calabashes, the ropes made in pau, which is used to attach the frame and also see how the mayons are made, which are used to tape the blades and also shows all the methods that are put in place for the success of the construction of a balafon.

There will be a break from 12h30m to 14h45m.

Between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., participants will learn techniques to play the instrument. . And during the night, he will have the balafon dance for you to show us the importance of the balafon in the whole region of Kindia, and see the relationship between the balafon and Tam-Tam, called the boté,. since in Soussou circles, the balafon and the boté are often played together.


Day 2

Mande Historical Directory

During the day, there’ll be a discussion regarding the Mande historical directories. The balafon is composed of a light wooden structure tied with leather straps, on which hardwood keysare arranged in increasing size and height (the shorter the keys, the higher the sound) and pairs of small calabashes are placed below forming sound boxes. In the Senufo communities, the balafon is present at different times of collective life, whether it is festivals, prayer, esoteric rituals. Its music is used to accompany the transmission of traditions, beliefs and values ​​of the community.

Since the balafon is the very first and only instrument of the Mande, all other instruments were inspired by the instrument. We will also learn about the importance of the Mande repertoires.

In Mande, each family name has its own directories.; For example, if a family name is Keita, all the griots know what song they have to sing; the same applies to other names such as Camara, Diabaté, Doumbia, etc.

The traditional repertoires of Mande are very important because they speak of everyone’s identity.

The directories allow for greater social cohesion between the different African populations, and there will be traditional Kindia music in the evening.


Day 3

Mande Historical Directory

The balafon, also called bala or balani, is an instrument of the percussion family; they are generally used by musicians in traditional music at parties. Although it is an African instrument, it is becoming more and more common in France and other European countries.

We will show how to do the practices and also see how to collaborate with other musicians around the world.

The cross-cultural collaboration will include Afua Cooper, Lassana Diabaté and Illya Kierkosz to make a cultural exchange; there’ll be three days of rehearsal with the local artists followed by a  concert with the local artists.

This concert will include a guitar and five (5) balafon to show the audience that the instrument can be played using pentatonic or diatonic modes. generally includes between 16 and 27 notes and the link that exists between the guitar and the balafon, accompanied by a singer and also see the ability to compose new directories

Indeed, we can also make arrangements on the musical side and also show how I transform the balafon in a classical mode and in manding mode.



– Students and African participants: $100 USD
– Other participants: $500 USD
*Certificates for participation will be provided*

Register here.




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The Centre for Sound Communities is an arts-led social innovation lab at Cape Breton University involved in:

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