Africa

Mali musician Ballake Sissoko claims US customs broke instrument

Ballake Sissoko Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ballake Sissoko says when he returned to Paris, his kora was broken into pieces

Malian musician Ballake Sissoko claims his musical instrument was broken during a US customs check.

Sissoko plays the kora, a traditional West African musical instrument similar to a harp.

He says when he returned to Paris on 4 February following a US tour, he opened up the instrument's case to find it in pieces.

Inside the case, there was a leaflet from US customs claiming they had opened the case for inspection.

However, it is unclear when exactly the musical instrument was broken.

US customs officials have yet to reply to the BBC's request for comment.

'Impossible to replace'

Sissoko has performed in concerts around the world including at the BBC Proms in London.

Images posted to his Facebook page show the musical instrument in pieces. A statement on the page claims the neck of the kora has been removed.

"The strings, bridge and entire, delicate and complex sound system of amplification has been taken apart.

"Even if all the components that have been disassembled were intact, it takes weeks before a kora of this calibre can return to its previous state of resonance. These kinds of custom-made koras are simply impossible to replace," the statement said.

"In Mali, the jihadists threaten to destroy musical instruments, cut the tongues out of singers, and silence Mali's great musical heritage. And yet, ironically, it is the USA customs that have in their own way managed to do this," the statement added.

Sissoko claims he checked in the instrument in a hard case at the airport in New York and only inspected it when he arrived back at his apartment in Paris.

The leaflet from Transportation Security Authority (TSA) said a security agent had inspected the case and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

A number of Sissoko's supporters took to social media to voice their support for the musician and demand an apology from US customs.

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