BALANTA BALO:
TALKING WOOD OF CASAMANCE

Image Surrounded by cultures that
specialize in drumming, the
Balanta of Senegal apply the
rhythms of West African
drumming to the realms of
harmony and melody

About the Music

Embodying his people's tradition, Malang Mané (MA-lang MA-nay) sings and plays side by side on a large two-player balafon with accompanist Oumar Sadio (OO-mar SAH-yo). The Balanta call their distinctively sized balafon the kadj.

Image Protected by amulets,
Malang's son learns
to play the Balanta balo
from a tender age, as
did Malang

Malang is the leading balafon player in the heart of Balanta land in Senegal, in the forested region called Casamance. Oumar, once Malang's apprentice, is now a master in his own right. Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance was digitally recorded near Malang's village, Sédhiou (SAY-yoo), Senegal.

Image Malang is accompanied
by former apprentice
Oumar Sadio, who
sings and plays beside
Malang on the two-
player balo


Reviews

"The latest [Village Pulse recording], Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance, comes live and direct from a coconut grove aside a river in southwestern Senegal. The featured instrument, the balafon, is a 'gourd-resonated xylophone,' a combination of 'the Mandinka word[s] bala (wood) and fo (to speak),' according to the well-crafted and engaging liner notes. The seven tracks on Balanta Balo feature complex, interlocking rhythms that are more subtle and introspective than you might expect from music designed to accompany community dances. Much more than a field recording (the sound is both clear and warm), this is pure music without the filters of culture or the exploitation running rampant amid the flood of 'World Music' collections. It takes you there, which is what music is supposed to do in the first place."
--Eric Seyfarth, EcoTraveller

Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance presents the balafon music from the Balanta people of Guinee-Bissau and Senegal, taped in a coconut grove along the Casamance River. The music is made by two men, hammering on a single instrument made of carved wood [suspended] over gourds. "Bird calls appear on some tracks," the liner notes tell us. From these simple elements master balafonist Malang Mané and his former student, singer balafonist Oumar Sadio create forty-five minutes of mesmerizing music; two men, four hands, two voices, joined into a singular enterprise. They sing praises to generous neighbors, tell news of a politician falsely imprisoned and now liberated. They warn of the dishonest of a Gambian customer, they even sing of the exchange rate. But deep below this is the insinuating sound of the balafon, its rumbling undertones and almost imperceptible overtones are almost impossible to separate as the two musicians act as one [with] the instrument. If you are already captured by the interlacing strings of the kora of west Africa but have yet to discover the bala, then you will find this music immediately captivating.
--Dirty Linen

Audio Samples

[Button] "Cisse" MP3 format (30 sec, 295 KB).

[Button] "Sanya" MP3 format (31 sec, 306 KB).


Catalog Reference

Title: Balanta Balo: Talking Wood of Casamance
Artist: Malang Mané
Cat. No.: VPU-1006 (CD)

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