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Balafon Arises!

Delivering emotionally charged performances to audiences of all ages, Balafon West African Dance Ensemble is easily emerging as one of Washington's premiere contemporary African performance ensembles.

Officially forming in 1997, Balafon is a creative partnership among several artists who masterfully blend the natural elegance of traditional West African dance and culture with an amazing heroic athleticism.

Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, incorporated in 2001, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Celebration of Culture

The mission of Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, Inc. is to provide an insightful, woman-centered perspective on West African tradition and culture as a source of healing and balance by providing quality education and entertainment to audiences of all nationalities and walks of life.

Guided by the artistic directorship of Kadiatou Conte, a native of the Republic of Guinea and formerly of the world renown Ballets National Djoliba, the ensemble brings to the stage an exquisite celebration of classical West African song, music, and dance reflecting more than 30 years of experience in the world of African performance arts.

With its intricate display of choreography and stunning raiment, Balafon is a breath of fresh air on the contemporary African dance scene offering a unique perspective on West African tradition and culture...a definite must see!

History of the Balafon

The balafon, also known as gyile or marimba, originated from West Africa in areas now called Ghana, Guinea and Burkina Faso. They are used at funerals, festivals and celebrations to provide both melody and rhythm.

The keys of the balafon are made from male shea butter trees that have been dead for several years - it must have lost most of its natural oils. The wood is cut into planks and dried over fires built into the ground. The planks are cut into keys with a short handled axe. A sharp knife is used for fine-tuning; wood is cut from the middle to produce flat notes and from the end to create sharp notes. Gourds are then put under the keys to amplify their sound.