Balla Kouyaté plays at the National Heritage Fellowships Concert on Sept. 20 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall in Washington D.C. (Courtesy Tom Pich and National Endowment for the Arts)
As a boy in Mali, Balla Kouyaté remembers playing the balafon to motivate workers on a farm. He was so small, he had to stand on a large rock to be seen by the crowd. An opportunity like that would often provide his family with enough food for at least six months, if not a year. The bubbling, penetrating sound of this African ancestor of the xylophone was an essential part of his upbringing, as consistent as laughter, an extension of himself.
“This is a constant sound in the family,” Kouyaté said during a recent interview, “a constant sound. Like as long as we’re not sleeping, you would hear this instrument.”
Orff Schulwerk Music For Children using the bass, alto xylophone and the glockenspiel