also known as "xylophone or "Gyile" in Dagarti are
from the North West of Ghana. The xylophonist is also a vocalist,
playing on their own or with flute or drum. Xylophones provide both
melody and rhythm and are used at celebrations and festivals.
The pentatonic scale C Eb F G Bb is traditionally used for tuning.
How they are made:
The keys of the Balafon are made from the male Shea Butter tree.
The tree, having mostly died in bush fires, must have been dead
for a number of years for it to have lost most of its natural oils.
The wood is cut into planks and dried over fires built into the
ground. The planks are cut into keys with a short handled axe, and
a sharp knife is used for fine tuning. Wood is cut from the middle
if the note is flat and from the ends if it is sharp. Gourds are
then cut under the keys amplifying their sound. The beaters are
made from wood and rubber, the rubber is recycled from old truck
tires. The beaters are held between the fore and middle fingers.
The frame is made from hardwood. Each key has sized gourd resonators. You
have your choice of hardwood or galvanized metal keys. These are
the professional model of xylophones. They are large instruments
- unlike the small toy-like xylophones that are mass produced and
distributed throughout the U.S. A set of beaters is included
with each Balafon. Extra beaters can be purchased by the pair.