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Bala

Date:
19th century
Culture:
Mandinka people
Medium:
Wood, gourd, hide, membrane
Dimensions:
L. 86.5 cm (34 1/16 in.).; W. 45.5 cm (17 15/16 in.); Diam. 22 cm (8 11/16 in.)
Classification:
Idiophone-Struck-bar-wood
Credit Line:
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Accession Number:
89.4.492
Not on view
This balo is a xylophone with 15 gourd-resonated bars of wood. Among the Manding peoples, professional male musicians play such xylophones to accompany praise songs in a manner akin to music of the kora. Each hand holds a rubber-tipped mallet and bells are strapped to the player's wrist to add rhythmic emphasis. A sound modifier is affixed over the holes located under the bars in the side of each gourd. In old examples such as this one, the modifier, which produces a buzzing sound essential to the African music aesthetic, is made of a membrane from a spider's-egg case. Today, makers use a more durable and accessible material—cigarette paper.
Mary Elizabeth Adams Brown
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