The balafon is a West African xylophone and an instrument steeped in history. Believed to have originated in the Mande areas of West Africa (Mali, Guinea, the Gambia, Burkina Faso) 800 years ago, the balafon is at the centre of the national myth that recounts the creation of the Mali Empire. It adds a colourful percussive backbone to the music in which it features, and exists in two variations: the heptatonic (seven-note) balafon, which is flat and played by leading Malian player Lassana Diabaté; and the pentatonic (five-note) balafon, which is played by internationally renowned Mamadou Diabaté. Traditional tunings and scales vary across the region, though nowadays the instrument is often tuned to a Western diatonic scale. Have a listen to this playlist, which features master players like Mamadou Diabaté, Kélétigui Diabaté and many more, to truly immerse yourself in the sound of the balafon.