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Barcelona Music Museum

Balafon from Equatorial Guinea

Balafon (Equatorial Guinea), 1850-1900. © Gabriel Serra

Balafon (Equatorial Guinea), 1850-1900. © Gabriel Serra

The balafon is widespread across Africa. A traditional instrument of the Mandinga people of the west, it is played by professional musicians to accompany the recital of epic songs. It is a xylophone made of eight wooden staves that are played with mallets, with gourds underneath to provide resonance. The gourds have a small hole covered with a fine membrane of plant material to give the sound a special vibrating quality.

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