The duo showcases the West African balafon: think xylophone, but made from wood and gourds, with a richer, earthier sound. Born in Mali, Balla Kouyaté has an unparalleled knowledge of traditional repertoire and has been a member of the Ensemble Nationale du Mali. (A Malian 1000-year-old balafon belonging to his family is a UNESCO Artifact of Oral and Intangible History.) Mamadou Diabate comes from the Sambla people of Burkina Faso and, like Balla, Mamadou was raised in the Djeli (griot) tradition. His career has spanned cultures and continents, from early balafon training with his father, to performing a wide range of percussion instruments with such African all-star groups as Farafina and the Coulibaly Brothers.