Build your own balafon - Blog - Paul Nas
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Build your own balafon

Dutch French

You may have thought: “I’d love to build my own balafon! What is normally done in Mali, Ivory Coast or Burkina Faso can now also be done in the Netherlands, in Tilburg.!”. Until now, this was really only possible in Africa if you stayed there for a bit longer in a country like Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, Senegal or Burkina Faso. But now it can also be done in the Netherlands; Build your own balafon, in Tilburg (and some at home if you like).

I recently bought a batch of Padouk wood with excellent sound characteristics. In Cameroon and also in the southern regions of Africa, Padouk wood is widely used for soundbar instruments. It is less available in Mali and Burkina, so working with Rosewood is often preferred there. So far, I did deal with re-tuning and overhauling balafones, starting from the sounding rods already present. Sometimes I used a tuning rod for a repair that had previously been on another balafon. But now that I have sufficient, suitable sounding rods of wood, I can also start making a balafon from scratch. When Youssouf Keita was in Tilburg in June ’22, I went over my plans with him and he shared additional knowledge with me. He was very enthusiastic about the quality of padouk and we selected a first set of wood together. From this I made a balafon in Denmark, during the ‘Byggefestival’ (wood-building festival) with Maximiliaan, who made his balafon under my guidance (see the blog entry about that here).

From 15 September, I will be working in the studio of the Kessels Instrument Museum in Tilburg. I will be working there on balafon construction and restoration. It is possible to make your own instrument under my guidance. This can then be done partly at my premises (the Kessels Instrument Museum is located opposite Tilburg central station). But part of the work can also be done well in your own home; often only simple tools are needed to work at home. by appointment, we’ll see each other and can discuss a next step. Mail me so you can build your own balafon!

Build your own balafon

Tuning soundbars

Build your own balafon

Making a frame

Mounting the keys


Max playing the balafon we made this week together!

Paul Nas
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