WATCH FROM HOME: The Wood and the Calabash

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Hugo Zemp
color, 47 min, 2002

Available on DSL and DVD

Among the Senufo people of northern Côte d’Ivoire, the balafon (xylophone with calabash resonators) is an emblematic musical instrument.

Balafon makers are all musicians, but a balafon player isn’t necessarily an instrument maker. The film shows in detail the manufacture of this musical instrument, an indispensable element in the life of the Senufo people. Each step is shown, from the initial prayer to the genies of the balafon before felling a tree, through the cutting and tuning of the keys and the resonators, to the fixing of the buzzing membranes, which give this instrument its very characteristic timbre.

Nanga, the balafon maker, talks about his work and discusses different aspects with friends during a meal.

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