Baria - Bwaba / Bobo - Balafonrhythms - Paul Nas
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Pentatonic Balafon


Last update on 2 December 2021

Dutch French

B Baria is a Bwaba / Bobo balafon piece to express thanks (“Baria”). It has a 9/8th time signature. It was written by François Keita, and uncle of Youssouf and Ali Keita. He made it on the occasion of the dedication of the first black bishop of San, Jean Gabriel Diarra, in 1987 in the time of Pope John Paul II.
When Youssouf was in school, he played balafon every Sunday during the year 1988 in San Cathedral. The balafon play was then supported by a choir of 20 boys, 25 girls and 5 priests. All balafon pieces could be played, most of them non-religious. “If there was no balafon at the service, it was experienced as a boring service!!.”
In the presentation that Youssouf and Kassim gave during the workshop, A (by Youssouf) and B (by Kassim) were both played, together with the vocals. After the vocals a small variation of B was applied. The first line of the text was clearly sung. The rest are written down phonetically from recordings (of vocals by Kassim).

A baria a, (3x) a wa ma dem bwe a baria
O baria a, wa barouza ma, zu baria o sa mou-ou a wè woura ma yé
ma yè, ma de sene o baria,

A baria a, (3x) a wa ma dem bwe a baria
na bou rou yè hmm, oké, nou ma ma
mi whou oké nou de chou-a na, o ma fe di ro o chi ri ma o

na bou rou yo o, oké nou o djo, nou-ou ma chè wi ma mi wo ro san,
ma pè rè tè re ran, o ba rou no te ra pa, ar te se ran
o ba rou no te ra pa, ar te se ran
A baria a, (3x) a wa ma dem bwe nou baria

(thanks, my father God, thanks).

In West African pentatonic balafon music, the starting position of a melody / rhythm is easily changed. That this sometimes results in a different melody-line is not a problem. The singer adapts to this in the way the song is sung. Here is an example of a modulated rhythm. Youssouf and Kassim even (unintentionally?) used at least three variations during the workshop.


Emanuel Keita in front of his cabin during our workshop in Konsankuy, Mali in 2012.

Mama Keita has come to visit and has grabbed a chair.


Youssouf & Kassoum Keita, Konsankuy, Mali 2012, Youssouf Keita, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, January 2019.

update history
  • 2 December 2021: New PDF version with three harmony variation
  • 23 Februari 2021: English version
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