Musical Instruments of the Jali

As I was once told, the most valued instruments of any Jali or Jalimuso are his/her mind, its’ memory, and the voice through which it speaks to the world.

Secondary, but no less important, are the musical instruments which many Jali use in carrying out their work. The musical instruments played by Jalolu are viewed, not as objects, but extensions of the Jali himself, who acts as a vessel for the spiritual secrets harbored within the instrument.

There three best known instruments played by the Jali, but, once again, it must be stressed that not all Jali perform with musicial instruments;the three main musical instruments of the Jali are the Balafon, the Ngoni, and the Kora. The instruments typically played by the Jalimuso is the Karinyan, nege or ne (A short tubular piece of iron that is struck with another, thinner piece of iron.) The Jalimuso uses her instrument as a time keeping mechanism, holding together the rhythm of the song or other instruments. The Western notion of a xylophone is the closest relation to the West African balafon. The balafon’s bars are made of a hardwood instead of metal and these rest on a frame of bamboo. Beneath the bars are small gourds which act as resonators. The Kora, a 21 string bridge harp, is the instrument most associated with the Jali because of its’ popularity and versatility. The Ngoni is probably the oldest of the stringed instruments played by the Jali. It is said to be the instrument which preceded and gave birth to the banjo.

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