Music of Burkina Faso

West African music
Benin Burkina Faso
Chad Côte d'Ivoire
Gambia Ghana
Guinea Guinea-Bissau
Liberia Mali
Mauritania Niger
Nigeria Senegal
Sierra Leone Togo
Western Sahara

Burkina Faso is home to some sixty different ethnic groups, each with their own variety of folk music. The country has produced very little popular music compared to its neighbors, which includes African musical giants like Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. Burkinabé traditional music, however, has continued to thrive in spite of the influx of popular styles, and the country's cultural, and musical, output remains quite diverse.

The national anthem of Burkina Faso is "Une Seule Nuit", written by Thomas Sankara. It has been the official anthem of the country since 1984, when Upper Volta became known as Burkina Faso.

There is a National Museum of Music in Ouagadougou. Its collection is a few years old, beginning in 1998, but already has several hundred unique musical instruments.


Popular music

Unlike most African countries, Burkina Faso has not yet had a popular national style, and the most popular recordings are imported from Europe, the United States, Congo, Kenya, Jamaica, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal or Côte d'Ivoire. One reason may be the poverty in the country, which is great even when compared with other poor nearby nations; with little resources to invest, large-scale concerts, advanced recording studios, electric instruments and amplification and widespread distribution are difficult.

The Semaine Nationale de la Culture, held every two years since 1983, is a music festival that has helped produce the country's few stars, including Jean-Claude Bamogo (reggae), Kaboré Roger, Simporé Maurice, Abdoulaye Cissé (Manding pop), George Ouédraogo (Afropop) and Black So Man (reggae). The country has also produced a minor star in expatriate Gabin Dabiré, who lives in Italy. Kaboré Moussa's Bazar Musique, a record label, has recorded more than one hundred artists representing various traditions from around the country, while Désiré Traoré of Dési et les Sympathiques and Nick Domby operate their own studios as well.

The most popular musician from the country is probably Tidiani Coulibaly, whose band Dafra Stars was well-known in the 1970s for a fusion of traditional and popular West African music with Cuban styles. Their music included balles de poussiéres (dust dances) but the band was unable to replace state-supplied equipment, and so disbanded when their instruments broke down.

In the world music scene, Mahama Konaté's Farafina, which was formed in 1978, has become very prominent, as has Koudbi Koala's Saaba, who perform traditional Mossi music.

Traditional music

Djeli are a caste of praise-singers in Burkina Faso, their function related to the griots elsewhere in West Africa. At each ruler's funeral, djeli are recite the names and histories of all the past rulers, and also intervene in personal affairs of common people, as well as performing at social gatherings.

The Mande people of the southwest are known for balafon (wooden xylophone) music, while the large, centrally-located Mossi and their griots retain ancient royal courts and courtly music. The Fulbe of the north use complex vocal techniques with clapping percussion.


Djembé drums and balafon are often manufactured in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso's second-largest city. The djembe is a vital part of Burkinabé traditional music. It is said to be of Malinke origin. The name may be an onomatopoeia, deriving from the sound the drum makes. It is usually made from a tanned goat skin attached to a cylindrical base made from the caïcedrat tree.

The balafon is a kind of wooden xylophone, the exact characteristics of which can vary depending on the maker. The Dagara, Bwa and Senufo peoples all have their own varieties.

The bendré is a membranophone made from a gourd with the top cut off and covered with goat or sheep skin. The same instrument is called bara in Mali and dumaa among the Hausa in Benin. The bendré is an ancient instrument, played at the royal courts of Moaga; it was probably introduced during the reign of Naaba Oubri, and has been much the same since. Bendré music is sacred, and is played by a head drummer (benaaba), who strikes the center or edges to makes varying sounds.

The kora is a stringed instrument played traditionally by the djeli in Burkina Faso. The same instrument is found throughout much of West Africa, and is especially known in Mali. It has featured of both the lute (both are played with the right hand) and the harp (both have a resonator and perpendicular strings). The instrument has been popular since the Malian empire of the 1240s, but probably dates much farther back. It is made from half of a gourd covered in goat or calf skin, which is perforated by two handles. A stick runs through the gourd perpendicular to the handles and the bridge, and the strings are joined to the bridge. Though the instrument traditionally featured seven strings, the Gambian griot Madi Woulendi increased that number to twenty-one. The kora can be played in several scales including the hypolydian mode (saouta), silaba, sim'bi and mandéka.

Another stringed instrument is called the n'goni. It is said to have been invented by a Senufo hunter. The n'goni is also played in Niger, Senegal and Mali.


  • Bensignor, François. "Hidden Treasure". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 437-439. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools