Musical Traditions in Mali | The Instrument of the Warrior Kings of Mandé

“In past times, I would not point this horsetail at a person who did not make blood flow.” The Bolon (Warrior’s harp) is the instrument of the Warrior Kings of Mandé. While other ethnic groups play a similar instrument, according to Ibrahim Traoré, he is the only person playing the Mandinka Bolon in Mali today.

Function of Tradition: The bolon is a warrior’s harp and was played to give courage to men going to the battlefront. It was played after the battle to celebrate the victory, and during the execution of captives who refused to surrender and swear allegiance to their new masters.
Reason for disappearance: The royal wars no longer exist. Those who ruled are no longer in power. The traditional social systems of Mandé have been replaced through colonialism, independence, and democracy. Those who had the power are now without. It is suggested that the individuals who worked with the colonial powers were actually people of caste, and have replaced the true nobility. Learning to play the bolon is not easy. The world of the bolon is dangerous. One must be well educated in the knowledge of plants and spells in order to navigate safely.