Xalam, also spelled khalam, is the Wolof name for a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from Ancient Egypt. Many believe that it is an ancestor to the American banjo.

The xalam is commonly played in Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Northern Nigeria, Northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Western Sahara; it is also known in other languages as bappe, diassare, hoddu (Pulaar), koliko (Gurunsi), kologo (Frafra),komsa, kontigi (Hausa), koni, konting (Mandinka), molo (Songhay/Zarma), ndere, ngoni (Bambara), and tidinit (Hassaniyya Arabic).

Someone who plays the xalam is called a xalamkat (a word composed of the verbal form of xalam, meaning “to play the xalam”, and the agentive suffix -kat, thus meaning “one who xalams”).Xalam, also spelled khalam, is the Wolof name for a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from Ancient Egypt. Many believe[who?] that it is an ancestor to the American banjo.

The xalam is commonly played in Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Northern Nigeria, Northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Western Sahara; it is also known in other languages as bappe, diassare, hoddu (Pulaar), koliko (Gurunsi), kologo (Frafra), komsa, kontigi (Hausa), koni, konting (Mandinka), molo (Songhay/Zarma), ndere, ngoni (Bambara), and tidinit (Hassaniyya Arabic).

Someone who plays the xalam is called a xalamkat (a word composed of the verbal form of xalam, meaning “to play the xalam”, and the agentive suffix -kat, thus meaning “one who xalams”).
In most areas the xalam is played by male [[griots]], or praise singers who are born into the profession. It most often acts as a solo or duo instrument to accompany praise songs and historical recitations, and in some areas it may form part of a larger group including kora, drums, and calebashes. It is traditionally heard at weddings, infant naming ceremonies, and (always with amplification) is now a common member of folklore ensembles, popular ”[[mbalax]]” groups, and ”ndaga” variety shows.

Important past and present Senegalese xalam masters include Sàmba Jabare Sàmb, Ama Njaay Sàmb, Abdulaay Naar Sàmb (all from the Jolof), Abdulaay Soose (from the Saalum), and Bokunta Njaay (from the Bawol).

April 22, 2015 – One the most amazing sources of evidence of our ancestors coming from the stars is the history of the Dogon Tribe of Africa. There are between 400,000 and 800,000 Dogon in a remote civilization in the central plateau region of Mali in Africa.

The Dogon culture is known for its detailed, meaningful art and tribal customs, but the Dogon are mostly known for their ancient, accurate cosmology and the legends of their ancestors from Sirius.

The Importance of the Dogon hit the western world in 1930 when French anthropologists first heard legends from the Dogon priests. The legends were passed down through many generations and documented through artwork.

The Dogon spoke of an extraterrestrial species from the Sirius Star System, referred to as the Nommos, who visited them on earth. The Nommos were an aquatic race of humanoid creatures, similar to mermaids. This was amazing to hear because the god, Isis, of Babylon is depicted as a mermaid and associated with Sirius.

The Dogon say that the Nommos descended to earth from the heavens in a great boat, accompanied with extreme wind and loud noise.

The Dogon explained that the Sirius system had a companion star, but it cannot be seen from earth due to the brightness of Sirius A. Researchers have found Dogon artifacts dating back over 400 years depicting orbits of these stars.

Years later, in 1970, astronomers finally had good enough telescopes to zoom in on Sirius and they photographed Sirius B. The Dogon were right!

They also identified the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn without the use of a telescope. How could they know this?

Being only 8 light years away, Sirius A is the brightest Star in the Earth sky. Sirius B is an extremely heavy, dense and tiny white dwarf star, smaller than the earth, but weighing 8X more than our Sun. It is gravitationally bound to Sirius A and part of the same solar system.

White dwarfs form when a star runs out of fuel. They begin to collapse on themselves, not being large enough to supernova.

Going back for hundreds of years ever since the Nommos came to visit the Dogon, they have held a ceremony every 50 years to celebrate the orbit of Sirius A and Sirius B. Astronomers later confirmed their orbit to be almost exactly 50 years!

Check out these videos for much more details.

Read more: http://www.disclose.tv/news/the_dogon_tribe_of_africa_and_their_extraterrestrial_history/116985#ixzz3YCfzgRxK

The kalimba, mbira or thumb piano is an African musical instrument consisting of a calabash or wooden board (often fitted with a resonator) with attached staggered metal tines, played by holding the instrument in the hands and plucking the tines with the thumbs. The mbira is usually classified as part of the lamellaphone family, and part of the idiophone family of musical instruments.

Members of this broad family of instruments are known by a wide variety of names, such as likembe, mbila, mbira huru, mbira njari, mbira nyunga nyunga, sansu, zanzu, karimbao, marimba, karimba, kalimba, likembe, okeme, ubo, or—between the late 1960s and early 1970s— sanza, as well as marímbula (also called kalimba) in the Caribbean Islands).

Both Joseph H. Howard, owner of the largest collection of drums and ancillary folk instruments in the Americas, and Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji argue that the mbira is thoroughly African, being found only in areas populated by Africans or their descendants.[1] In Eastern and Southern Africa, there are many kinds of mbira, usually accompanied by the hosho. It was reported to be used in Okpuje, Nsukka area of the south eastern part of Nigeria in the early 1900s. It is a particularly common musical instrument of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is also often an important instrument to be played at religious ceremonies, weddings, and other social gatherings.

Mbira came to prominence after the worldwide stage performance and recordings of Thomas Mapfumo, whose music is based on and includes the mbira;[2] the work of Dumisani Maraire, who brought marimba and karimba music to the American Pacific Northwest; Ephat Mujuru, who was one of the pioneer teachers of mbira in the US; as well as the writings and recordings of Zimbabwean musicians made by Paul Berliner. Commercially produced mbiras were exported from South Africa by ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey from the 1950s onward, popularizing the instrument outside of Africa.

The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drumheads connected by leather tension cords, which allow the player to modulate the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between his or her arm and body. A skilled player is able to play whole phrases.
The pitch of the drum is varied to mimic the tone patterns of speech. This is done by varying the tension placed on the drumhead: The opposing drumheads are connected by a common tension cord. The waist of the drum is held between the player’s arm and ribs, so that when squeezed the drumhead is tightened, producing a higher note than when it’s in its relaxed state; the pitch can be changed during a single beat, producing a warbling note. The drum can thus capture the pitch, volume, and rhythm of human speech, though not the qualities of vowels or consonants.

The use of talking drums as a form of communication was noticed by Europeans in the first half of the eighteenth century. Detailed messages could be sent from one village to the next faster than could be carried by a person riding a horse. In the nineteenth century Roger T. Clarke, a missionary, realised that “the signals represent the tones of the syllables of conventional phrases of a traditional and highly poetic character.Like Chinese languages, many African languages are tonal; that is, the pitch is important in determining the meaning of a particular word.The problem was how to communicate complex messages without the use of vowels or consonants, simply using tone. An English emigrant to Africa, John F. Carrington, in his 1949 book The Talking Drums of Africa explained how African drummers were able to communicate complex messages over vast distances.Using low tones referred to as male and higher female tones, the drummer communicates through the phrases and pauses, which can travel upwards of 4–5 miles. This process may take eight times longer than communicating a normal sentence but was effective for telling neighboring villages of possible attacks or ceremonies.He found that to each short word which was beaten on the drums was added an extra phrase, which would be redundant in speech but provided context to the core drum signal.
Playing styles are closely linked with the drum’s construction and the tonal qualities of each language. There is a clear difference in playing styles between areas with predominantly Fulani and Mande-speaking populations and traditionally non-Mande areas further east.

The predominant style of playing in areas further west such as Senegal, Gambia, western Mali and Guinea is characterized by rapid rolls and short bursts of sound between the stick holding hand and accompanying free hand, and correlates with the various pitch accent and non-tonal languages heard in this area. This is a style typically heard in the popular Mbalax genre of Senegal.

From eastern Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana, towards Niger, western-Chad and Nigeria, (with the exceptions of areas with Fulani and Mande-speaking majorities) the playing style of the talking drum is centered on producing long and sustained notes by hitting the drum head with the stick-holding hand and the accompanying free hand used to dampen and change tones immediately after being hit. This produces a rubbery sounding texture to its playing, which mimics the heavy and complex tones used in languages from this area (see Niger–Congo tonal language chart). This characteristic style can be clearly heard in the popular music of this area, particularly in those where the talking drum is the lead instrument, such as Fuji music of the Yoruba of Nigeria.

There are several idiophone instruments in West Africa, one of which is the balafon. The balafon, also known as balafo, bala, Balani, Gyil, and Balangi, is a type of tuned percussion instrument. It is played by using two padded sticks to strike the tuned keys.

Now, where did the balafon originate and what makes it special?

Brief History

An instrument known to have existed since the 12th century CE during the Mali Empire, the balafon has been and still is popular in West Africa. Its name has a Manding origin but the name varies in some parts like Senegal,Gambia,Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Balafon means the “act of playing the Bala,” with “Balan” corresponding to the instrument, while “fo” a verb meaning “to play” in the Malinke language.

Guinea’s Susu and Malinke peoples, as well as the Manding people dwelling in Senegal, Mali, and Gambia are the popular users of the instrument. Balafon traditions were also recorded in Chad, Cameroon, and around the Congo Basin.

In ancient times, the balafon is considered a sacred instrument that is exclusive to trained and skilled caste members. It was stored in a temple for safekeeping and can only be played at certain traditional and ritual occasions such as funerals, weddings, and festivals. Not to mention that the balafon has to be purified first before being played.

Playing Styles

The balafon is played in a wide variety of ways, depending on the culture in a certain area. Some hold solo balafon performance, while others, especially those from Cameroon, create an orchestra consisting of six balafons. The instrument can also be a part of an ensemble, just like in Guinea and Mali, where people use an ensemble of three: low, medium and high pitches.

There are two main types of balafon. One is called the fixed key, which involves a fixed frame with keys strung over it. Most of the time, calabash resonators are placed underneath it. The other type is the free-key balafon. Its difference is that the keys are independently attached to a padded surface. The typical balafon features 17-21 keys. It is up to balafon players what kind of tuning they want – tetratonic, pentatonic, or heptatonic scale.

Popular Balafon Players

Given balafon’s rise to popularity, many artists have started using it in their music. Among the most famous ones include Ba Banga Nyeck, El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyate, and Modibo Diabate. Balafon players can be found all over Africa and other parts of the world. The sound created by balafon is associated with jazz and other music genres.

African clothing is the traditional clothing, often vibrantly coloured, worn by the people of Africa. In some instances these traditional garments have been replaced by western clothing introduced by European colonialists.

In Northeastern Africa, particularly in Egypt, styles of traditional dress have been influenced by Middle Eastern culture, this can be exemplified by the simply embroidered Jelabiya which are similarly worn in the Gulf states. The Northwest Africans are less influenced by foreign elements and have remained more in antiquity. The Djellaba (worn in Northwest Africa) shares similar properties with the Grand boubou, the Dashiki, and the Senegalese kaftan. in Nigeria women were head ties In Sahelian Africa, the dashiki, Senegalese kaftan, and the grand boubou are worn more prominently, though not exclusively (the Bògòlanfini, for instance, is worn in Mali). The dashiki is highly stylized and is rendered with an ornate V-shaped collar. In contrast the grand boubou is simpler, even more so than the djellaba, though the color designs reach impressive proportions, especially among the Tuareg, who are known for their beautifully dyed indigo robes.

In East Africa, the kanzu is the traditional dress worn by Swahili speaking men. Women wear the kanga and the Gomesi.

In Southern Africa distinctive shirts are worn, like the long dresses they wear. For instance, South Africa is known for the Madiba shirt, whereas, Zimbabwe is known for the safari shirt.

In the Horn of Africa, the attire varies by country. In Ethiopia, men wear the Ethiopian suit and women wear the habesha kemis. In Somalia, men wear the khameez with a small cap called a koofiyad.At Touch Of Africa,we carry this lovely traditional African fashion.