Play blindfolded - Blog - Paul Nas, the Balafon is my Passion
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Play blindfolded

Play blindfolded

Dutch French

On 24 March 2018, contributed in the form of a balafon performance at a benefit evening for Doctors Without Borders with Hanneke Duijkers and Anton Sluijtman. Anton accompanied with percussion, Hanneke and myself played balafon. It was the introduction to a dance evening with World Music, organised by Gregoor van Zummeren in Wijkcentrum Heyhoef in Tilburg. We played some songs from our repertoire and I suggested to play blindfolded on the song “C’est ne pas Bon” by Amadou & Mariam. It was a tribute to these two Malian musicians who are both blind but still make appealing and beautiful Malian music that also appeals to the rest of the world.

Play blindfolded
How do blind people actually play balafon?

It also led me to wonder how do blind people actually play balafon. In Burkina Faso, I did see it once. I also wanted to experience it myself how it feels. I had also brought along a balafon in D major tuning for this purpose. This tuning is also used in the song in question. The song “C’est ne pas Bon” is purely pentatonic, which also makes it relatively easy to solo. Even though you might not quite hit the intended sound bar once, in a melody line da is not disturbing and can even be seen as a nice solo line! Fun to do once and thus demonstrate to anyone who plays on the pentatonic balaphone that soloing is fun and not always difficult. I do realise that playing a pattern, where precision is much more important, is a lot trickier. I have a lot of respect for blind people who still (continue to) play balafon. The picture below shows a bara player who is blind. In the film behind, he is the balafonist and singer in a ‘Cabaret’ in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. In the clip below that again, you can see that I try it too …. Try soloing blindfolded on a song you know yourself!

Paul Nas
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