The balafon (bala, balaphone) is a resonated frame, wooden keyed percussion idiophone of West Africa; part of the idiophone family of tuned percussion instruments that includes the xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel, and the vibraphone. Sound is produced by striking the tuned keys with two padded sticks.
Believed to have been developed independently of the Southern African and South American instruments now called the marimba, oral histories of the balafon date it to at least the rise of the Mali Empire in the 12th century CE. Balafon is a Manding name, but variations exist across West Africa, including the Balangi in Sierra Leone and the Gyil of the Dagara, Lobi and Gurunsi from Ghana, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. similar instruments are played in parts of Central Africa, with the ancient Kingdom of Kongo denoting the instrument as palaku. (Read more...)