Kora - the instrument

Bakeba Konte
Brikama, Gambia, 1991

The Kora is a Westafrican harp of the family of bridge harps or harp-lutes.

It's the highest developped string instrument of Africa. The construction of the instrument as well as the music are unique in the world.

The Kora is found in all Mande cultures. It is played by the Mandinka in Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau, the Malinke or Maninka in Guinée, the Bambara or Bamana in Mali and the Dioula in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Though, it's Gambia and Casamance (South Senegal) where it has the greatest importance for social life.

The Kora has a centuries-old tradition and has been played at royal courts, where the musicians and griots belonged to the personnel.

The Kora was mentioned 1799 for the first time in literature by Mungo Park in Travels in the interior districts of West Africa as korri.

Lamin Cissokho
Cap Skirring, Casamance, 2002

The Kora has a big hemispherical body, a long neck and two planes with 11 and 10 strings running in notches at the sides of an upright mounted bridge.

The playing style resembles the fingerpicking blues guitar, the placement of the strings allows for the playing of chords and harmonies and fast melodic runs.

Copyright © 1997-2003 Harald Loquenz. All rights reserved