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The Scene: Seguenon Koné

The Scene: Seguenon Koné

Instrument maker, educator, master balafonist

The Scene: Seguenon Koné

Instrument maker, educator, master balafonist
Winter 2024 issue of American Craft magazine
Seguenon Koné strings a handmade bolon. Photo by Cedric Angeles.

Seguenon Koné strings a handmade bolon. Photo by Cedric Angeles.

Koné stands with a collection of his handmade percussion instruments. He holds two rope-tuned djembe drums. Photo by Cedric Angeles.
Koné stands with a collection of his handmade percussion instruments. He holds two rope-tuned djembe drums. Photo by Cedric Angeles.

 

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Koné grew up in northern Ivory Coast, in a village called Gbon. He moved to New York City and then to Orlando, Florida, where he worked at Disney World and toured with the late singer Jimmy Buffett before moving to New Orleans in 2008. New Orleans, he says, has an intimate cultural community that seems large because so many people play instruments. “It can feel big during Mardi Gras,” he says. “But if anything happens here, everyone feels it because of the way we communicate between people.” The hardest part of being a musical performer in New Orleans, according to Koné, is “June, July, August. Those three months—summer—are not easy for an artist. It’s very, very slow. Sometimes I travel to New York and California to do workshops then. After that, the rest of the days and months are very good.” At about the age of 4, Koné began learning from Ivory Coast elders how to make a wide range of percussion instruments, including djembes, dunduns, congas, balafons, bolons, shekeres, and xylophones. To obtain the right skins and parts for his instruments—such as goat or calf skin for hand drums like the djembe—he places orders with stores across the country. When he’s in New Orleans, this former creative director of the music and dance ensemble Le Ballet Ivoire Spectacle teaches classes and plays in clubs with other local musicians.

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This article was made possible with support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

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