African Xylophone Festival at Makor in New York

Bernard Woma Trio (left to right: Bernard Woma, Kofi Ameyaw, Mark Stone) - Photo by Dennis Collins
Bernard Woma Trio (left to right: Bernard Woma, Kofi Ameyaw, Mark Stone) – Photo by Dennis Collins


New York (New York), USA – This May 5-7, New York City will play host to the second annual African Xylophone Festival, the only North American festival of xylophone music from across the African continent. “AXF2” will expand on the amazing variety of xylophones presented last year–with the spider-webbed gyil of Ghana, the bala (balafon) of the historic empire of Mali, and the resonant embaire of Uganda, joined by the timbila of Mozambique, as well as the log-drum krin from the forests of Guinea, the spirited namaddu (tuned drums) of Uganda, and the metallic budongo of East Africa. The concerts will take place Saturday, May 6 (8:00 PM) and Sunday, May 7 (7:00 PM). Makor is located at 35 West 67th Street.

The African Xylophone Festival will be presented by Jumbie Records with the 92nd Street Y, the Columbia University Arts Initiative and the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. The festival will span two nights of concerts at Makor and three days of workshops at Makor and Columbia University. Admission to the Makor concerts is $22 in advance and $25 at the door. Passes to the whole festival, including admission to both evening concerts and day-time workshops, are available online at:

There’s been a surge of interest in traditional African instruments like the xylophone,” says Aaron Fox, Director of The Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. “But many world music lovers have no idea that there are dozens of completely different xylophone traditions across the African continent, each with distinct constructions, tunings, and musical styles. This will be a unique opportunity for American audiences to get a sampling of the amazing depth of this music.”


Famoro Dioubate’s “Kakande”
Famoro Dioubate’s “Kakande”


Leading international and U.S. artists will present traditional African music originally created for funerals, ceremonies and village festivals, as well as
innovative new compositions utilizing these instruments. Highlights will include:

• Bernard Woma Trio—traditional and modern compositions for gyil by the solo
xylophonist of Ghana’s National Dance Company

• Famoro Dioubate’s “Kakande”—classical bala repertoire of the Mande peoples of West Africa given a New York flavor with flute, bass, cello and congas

• Dallam-Dougou—innovative music finding common ground between Hungarian folk music and the xylophone aesthetic of Guinea

• Imaginary Homeland—a jazz quartet of African xylophone, strings, and saxophone, presenting modern music for the Ghanaian gyil

• Biakuye Unity Ensemble—traditional music of southern Uganda featuring the embaire xylophone, budongo kalimba, and namaddu tuned drums.

• Nora Balaban’s “Timbila Project” – the timbila xylophone of Mozambique’s Chopi people meets electric guitar and Afropop

• Valerie Naranjo—solo transcriptions of the gyil xylophone performed on Euro-American marimba, with piano and percussion

• A NeNe Wofa — The youth of Duffield Street come together in a celebration of Mande culture

• St. Ann’s African Xylophone Ensemble of Brooklyn—New York’s youngest African xylophone ensemble, of 2nd and 3rd graders

• Workshops for children and adults at Columbia University, covering three different African xylophone traditions

• Advanced master classes for professional xylophonists with master musicians of Ghana and Guinea

• Jumbie Xylophone Summit—a rare meeting of xylophone masters from different African traditions on one performance stage

• Jumbie Orchestra: AXF Grand Finale—A festival orchestra of Jumbie Records artists perform Bernard Woma’s composition “Gyil Mambo,” hailed at Carnegie Hall as “Rhythmically vital; a fluid Afropop- jazz-classical hybrid!” (New York Times)

While the AXF takes place in New York, its sponsor Jumbie Records will also be working to support xylophone traditions back in Africa. For the fourth year, Jumbie Records will sponsor the Fielmuo Dance & Xylophone Festival in northwest Ghana, which provides competitions and training for the next generation of gyil players. The festival is organized by the chiefs and subchiefs of Fielmuo and its surrounding villages and run by the Fielmuo Area Development Association (FADA).

In Uganda, Jumbie Records has also recently sponsored the xylophone competition of the Busogo Regional festival, a part of the Senator National Cultural Festival. The winner of this competition, the Muwewesi Xylophone Group, used its prize money to buy new costumes and went on to win the national competition, facing groups from across Uganda.

For a complete schedule of festival events and more information on participating artists, please visit:

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central