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Bwaba instruments
Burkina Faso
Ethnic group: Bwaba
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Video Excerpt

  Bwaba instruments / Photo: DPC, Burkina Faso


The Bwaba live mainly in the southwest of Burkina Faso. The xylophone plays an important role in their music. It accompanies secular festivals and seasonal rites such as the harvest festival, which is celebrated when all the grain has been brought back to the village. Children are generally introduced to the xylophone at an early age. They are taught how the instrument is played and how it is made. The repertoire is transmitted from father to son, or from one member of the family or clan to another. Only two clans make the xylophones: the blacksmiths and the griots. The children in the clan each have their favourite instrument and focus on learning it to the best of their ability.

The instruments shown here — a xylophone, six flutes, two armpit drums, two cylindrical drums, a long hourglass-shaped drum and a bell —: are used when the feathered masks are brought out. The masks symbolize the power of the bush and the generosity of the earth.