As a thank you to his funders, The Finzi Trust, for a scholarship he was awarded this year studio co-manager, Andy Garvey, recorded a very old traditional West African music piece from the Malinke people of Guinea and Mali: ‘Nankoumandjan’. Performed on two balafons (African xylophones), kora (African Harp) and a calabash which is half of the shell of a very large pumpkin type fruit (used for many purposes like fruit bowls and carrying water, it also makes for a fantastic percussion instrument!).

Using our large hall for it’s fantastic acoustic qualities we tried to keep the capture simple and minimal to reflect the natural beauty of the acoustic sounds of these instruments. Unfortunately, Andy didn’t have time with a busy festival season, to dismantle and tune his balafon before having to film this. A long and arduous process which involves shaving the wooden keys with a knife and a plane! Probably about 20-30 hours work in total…

The track featured the expertise of Holly Marland on Kora, a previous Finzi scholar and devotee of West African music. The two instruments go so well together and the both instrumentalists are off to Gambia in 2017 for a joint study project, watch this space for those results! Andy’s first balafon student Ian Snailham supported with accompaniment and did so well. Jamie Riley is an expert in playing, teaching and repairing djembes and and all round fantastic percussionist. He played calabash on this occasion which compliments the delicate tones of balafon and kora.

These traditional West African music instruments are something we’d love to have in the studio more often!

Click here to follow Andy’s balafon journey.

Check out the video below and enjoy!