Mali musician Ballake Sissoko claims US customs broke instrument

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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.

Mr 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’

Mr 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 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.

Mr 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 Transport Security Authority (TSA) said a security agent had inspected the case and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

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