Introduction to the instrument

About the Kora

what is a kora?

The Kora is a musical instrument, historically associated with the Mande people of West Africa.

It is somewhat similar to a harp, or lute, but different from both. It is made from a long wooden neck, which passes through a calabash gourd. The gourd acts a resonator to amplify the sound. Strings (usually 21) are attached to the top of the neck and pass over a notched bridge (10 strings on one side of the bridge, 11 on the other) and are anchored to the bottom of the neck with a metal ring.

The instrument is played by a musician plucking the strings with the thumb and index finger of each hand, allowing up to 4 notes to be played at once. The remaining fingers hold the instrument by two handles drilled into the top of the gourd. The instrument is usually rested vertically on the ground with the musician seated in front of it.

The kora has at least two centuries of history, but is part of an even older tradition dating back to the 13th century Mali Empire of Sunjata Keita. The kora is traditionally played by male musicians to accompany narrations of history and proverbs and songs in honour of a patron.