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Burkina Faso star urges Africa to preserve traditional instruments

RENOWNED Burkina Faso Balaphone player, Mamadou Diabate, has said he is worried that the current African generation of artists is not interested in learning traditional instruments.

The musician, who lives in Austria, said Africa has very rich traditional instruments which should be forgotten and that they have to be utilised by the young generation.

“I am worried because many of those who are playing traditional instruments in Africa are the older generation. But most of them are not active; the young generation needs to come out and take over, otherwise we may lose out,” Diabate said.

The artist, who learned to play the Balaphone at a tender age, said African traditional instruments produce the best sound and that they need to be exposed to the world.

“I know Malawi also has several traditional instruments and those instruments have to be preserved. The young generation needs to learn the Kaligo and several other instruments. These instruments are part of our culture,” he said.

Recently, ethno-musician Waliko Makhala said it was high time the young generation embraced traditional instruments, observing that many of the instruments were being played by the older generation.

Diabate revealed that he has learned a lot about Malawi music through Professor Gerhard Kubik, an Austrian music ethnologist who used to work with late Donald and Daniel Kachamba.

Kubik still performs with among others, Moya Malamusi starring as Kwela Jazz Band.

“Through Professor Kubik I have learned a lot about Malawi music. I actually would want to come and perform but also teach young people how to play the Balaphone,” he said.

Diabate, who has performed at different festivals, was born in a family with a long tradition storytelling and music making.

With his group Percussion Mania, he won the Austrian World Music Award in 2011 and the Grand Prix of the Triangle Du Balafon competition in Mali in 2012.

Over the weekend, the artist, who has released 11 albums, performed at the Forde Traditional and World Music Festival in Norway.

“It was wonderful to perform in Norway at Forde Traditional and World Music Festival to represent BurkinaFaso and Africa. Every time I try my best to play good sounds from Africa using the Balaphone. I actually made this instrument on my own,” he said.

The Balaphone has a percussive and melodic sound and is a wooden instrument which has 16 to 27 keys.

Diabate said he would love to create a band that is for Africa and not only Burkina Faso, adding that he has a member who is from Senegal.

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