Malian Bolon musical instrument in need of urgent safeguarding
This week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added the bolon (also spelled m’bolon and nbolon) to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The bolon is a traditional musical instrument used in southern Mali and other countries. The harp-style instrument consists of a large calabash soundbox covered with cowhide and a bow-shaped wooden handle with strings.
The number of chains in the bolon determines its use. One- and two-string bolons are used for popular events and for religious rituals and ceremonies, while three- and four-string bolons are used to accompany the praises of traditional rulers, honor the heroic deeds of kings, and accompany the farmers in the fields. The instrument is taught through apprenticeships and by local associations.
The bolon is also used by Malian and Guinean musicians in groups of world music artists such as Ballake Sissoko, Mory Kanté, Ba Cissoko and Kandia Kouyaté.
Although the submission to the UNESCO list was made by Mali, the bolon is also played in other countries in the region, such as Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau.
The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding includes elements of living heritage whose viability is threatened. It mobilizes international cooperation and assistance to strengthen the transmission of these cultural practices, in agreement with the communities concerned. There are currently 71 items in this list.
(title photo: bolon players – © National Directorate of Cultural Heritage (DNPC), Mali, 2019)
Author: World Music Central Information Service
World Music News from the Editors of World Music Central