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Sambla rhythms bring African language to life

Sambla balafon master Mamadou Diabate and his band Percussion Mania perform at Taplin Auditorium.
Thursday, December 6, 2018

On Monday, November 7, 2018, Sambla balafon master Mamadou Diabate and his band Percussion Mania were invited by Florian Lionnet and the Princeton Program in Linguistics to give a concert in Taplin Auditorium. Prior to the concert, Mamadou gave a demonstration of the Sambla xylophone in Florian Lionnet’s “Languages of Africa” class, taught that day by guest-lecturer Laura McPherson (Dartmouth College).

Mamadou demonstrated how the Sambla language can be imitated on the balafon to transmit precise messages, a fascinating form of language surrogacy studied by McPherson. The students learnt how phrases as simple as “thank you” or as complicated as “be the first to give 10,000 francs to the balafon!” can be played on a xylophone and understood by people who practice the Sambla language and culture.

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