Djamanatigui - Bambara / Djoula - Balafonrhythms - Paul Nas
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Pentatonic balafon


Last edited on 23 March 2022

Dutch French

D Djamanatigui is a Bambara rhythm from Mali & Burkina Faso. It is a tribute to the leader of a village, town or region. In his/her presence, the musicians start this song. It originates from the Middle Ages and was played in honour of Biton Coulibaly, the ‘Chef de Village’ of Segou in present-day Mali. Later it was played more widely for other dignitaries. Originally, the balafon players in West Africa played on the equi-pentatonic balafon. With the introduction of the balafons with the ‘modern pentatonic proportions’, the musical pieces were also adapted to our ‘western ears’.

Djamanatigui no-e-tee camele-ela

There is nothing better than the Djamanatigui

(Other lyrics in the song; not reproduced here: You are strong and full of beauty, and no one can match you. Only the chief is elegant in this company)

The transitions of the 2nd and 4th measure in each melody column; there you can ‘tell your story’. In other words, you can vary the transitions in a way that you can create a nice little melody.
Pattern B is mainly used in an echo sequence. Gert Kilian’s Pattern C gives and accompaniment pattern to play with the melody.


During the IDON! trip to Guinea in 2004, we drove with our own cars from Banjoul (Gambia) via Senegal to Guinea. The four cars we had available were not all in super condition. Moreover, the roads were bad and our mechanic was inattentive. Therefore, we had to stop regularly for repairs to one or more cars. Sometimes, we would take our drums out of the car and make music together. But sometimes we also chilled out and watched the progress…


Gert Kilian, Montesquie Volverde, France, 2010. Youssouf Keita, Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, January 2017. DVD by Aly Keita & Gert Kilian.

Update history
  • 23 March 2022: Added some exercises and notes on the style of play
  • 16 March 2022: New
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