Relatives of the Kora: The family of African harps is quite broad. Amongst the West African harps includes the 3 to 4 stringed Bolon or by its alternate names bolombata, bolombato or bolumbata it is found in Gambia, Guinea and Mali. A 4 to 6 stringed donsonkoni or dunsunkoni is found in Mali and Guinea. In the Cote de Ivory [Ivory Coast], three harps can be found one called the boroboro having only 2 strings and the kori having 6 strings. The third harp called a “ko” having up to 6 and or 7 strings. In Ghana one fines the 6-stringed Seperewa. A 15 to 20 stringed seron is found in Guinea. In Gambia and Senegal one would find a 5 to 6 stringed simbi. A 22 stringed kora is found in the Cassamence region of Senegal.
Anatomy of the Kora: The Kora is made from medium to large size gourd, a hole is cut into to the centre near the top surface where the calabash was cut. This is for the main shaft to to be inserted too the calabash from the front to the back. A large iron ring is attached to the back of the shaft, the role of the ring functions as a means to hold the strings in place. A shaft is inserted onto the centre of the gourd this provides leverage for the two shafts that serve as handles. Wet animal hide is stretched over the calabash till it dries after the two support shafts are correctly positioned. This allows for musician to hold the instrument in a stable upright position during performance and to provide comfortable support. A bridge is carved from hardwood, usually of ironwood it is placed in between the rows of individual strings. The bridge has notches carved on both side where the strings travel through from the back of the instrument to where the tuning-rings are located. Due to the difficulty of tuning and maintaining the kora, many kora-makers seem to be using a wide variety of means to keep the strings in tune. Kora's frequently more are equipped with modern machine gear tuners as found on the electric guitar or bass guitar.