The more original form of this instrument contains three strings. A two string version is played as well in Ivory Coast, called a Boro-Boro.
file and a knife. Any electricity could harm the spirit of this instrument. This was made with a Calabash gourd, a curved length of cedar wood, a piece of Hare wood for the bridge, a goat skin, four pieces of twisted goat skin, rope and a metal resonator (Kse-Kse).
I found one of the biggest challenges in producing this piece,
was finding the right curvature in a piece of wood. The wood had to be relatively harmonious with the gourd, so as to create an instrument that is proportioned well, and doesn’t feel like it wants to fall over when you are playing it.
These instruments are made for playing rather than decor, the overall performance is of the highest priority to me. The player must feel comfortable and undistracted, like the instrument is an extension of themselves, an extra body part.
The bolon is a string drum, and its rhythms are made by plucking the strings with the thumbs. Counter and complimentary aspects of the rhythms are struck on the gourd with a flat relaxed hand between the main rhythm being kept on the strings. The Bolon’s origins are very ancient. Some say its birth occurred thousands of years ago, some say one, some say two, some say four. It is very difficult to trace, as most historical documentation in this area existed in the human form. A written language did not exist in most parts of the region until Islam arrived. What written documentation that did exist, was destroyed in the following years of reformation in the Mali Empire. However it is widely spoken that the Bolon was the original percussion instrument of West Africa, drums came many years after.
loose gravel foundation. The time and effort involved in the learning process, is more than worth it! It is incredibly beautiful as it is, and worth approaching with our western minds, as it always has been.
In its homeland, the Bolon was played historically only by people
who belong to the agricultural class, known as Jon (pronounced like the name Joan). These were farmers who were at service to the king. When needed, they acted as the kings soldiers.
Each different class of this society (Horon, Djeli, Numu, Dyoula, and Jon) had its own traditions, in regards to trades, musical instrumentation, clothing,
food, spiritual and social customs and practices. This was the customary structure of society in this region for many years. It was uncommon to find
people stepping outside of these complex social boundaries. These customs are still observed in the rural areas, they provide identity and maintain pride in one’s lineage, heritage and culture.
The Bolon was specific to the Jon. There existed no reason for people other than Jon to play Bolon. It was played for their ceremonies and magic practices, centering around themes of warfare and spirtual protection. This instrument was played in times of war, in later times it came to pronounce the Kings arrival or impending passage through a region. When required, the death of a king was pronounced through the Bolon, to his former subjects.
To enquire about having a Bolon, or to incorporate this amazing instrument into a performance, contact Jamie at email@example.com