Name: Kora [in French, cora].
Type: Bridged Harp Lute > Chordophones.
Regions: Many > West Africa.
Dimensions: Length of kora / Length / Width of calabash.
Acquisition Date: Christmas gift.
Acquisition Source: The Pacific Drum Store, Vancouver B.C. Canada.
Regional Varieties: The family of African harps as on the continent of Africa is quite broad. While focusing on West Africa there are very close relatives to the kora that include the 3 to 4 stringed Bolon known by its alternate names bolombata, bolombato or bolumbata it is found in Gambia, Guinea and Mali. A 4 to 6 stringed donsonkoni or dunsin koni is found in Mali and Guinea. In the Cote de Ivory [Ivory Coast] three types of harp can be found, one called the boroboro having only two 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.
Further Development: Is continuing with the kora multiple approaches involving the altering of designs, improving the acoustic or musical features from tuning to portability. Rescently smaller sized kora'sare are being made, in a much smaller size then their larger counter parts due to the demands of portability from musicians. Currently improvements include amplified koras, to the gravikord a kora like instrument invented and developed by Bob Grawi in 1986.
Anatomy of the Kora: It is constructed from numerous materials; first the calabash is cut in half, and the meet is scooped out from the inside, then the back and front holes are cut into the calabash, which is dried there after. Animal hide is attached to the calabash with thumb tacks to hold the hide in place. The main shaft where the strings are attached too that serves as the neck is inserted directly into the calabash. The thumb tacks are also placed in ornamental patterns while serving as the the function which holds the membrane together with the calabash. The membrane that forms the body, is supported by two handles that travel through the instrument parallel to the shaft, there is a piece of wood that travels vertically across the handles and shaft to provide structural support of the instrument while it is under tension from the strings. The shaft, left, right handles and bridge [on my kora] are made from bubinga wood (African rose wood or Guilbourtia spp). The strings are stretched from the iron ring at the back, through the bridge to the end of the shaft. Traditionally animal hide is used for the “sonso” tuning rings on the shaft. Although the sonso tuners the standard musicians do find them difficult to keep in tune, when adjusting the pitch on the strings. Recently modified or converted kora’s are becoming quite popular in both West Africa and outside. Modified tuners can be made from adjustable pipe clamps to the installation of guitar tuners. The strings of the kora travel from an iron ring located at the bottom of the gourd, which holds the strings in place through the bridge to top of the neck. The bridge of the kora is horizontally aligned and supported on a cloth wrapped support.
Select Discography: Al Haji Bai Konte
(Brikama, Gambia b. 1920 d. 1982 or 1983) Kora melodies from the
Republic of Gambia, West Africa album released 1973 in LP format ,
Djeli Moussa Diawara (Kankan Guinea b.1962), Foday Musa Suso (Sarre
Hamadi Village, Gambia). Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate -In the
heart of the moon released September
13, 2005 , Nonesuch records, Ali & Toumani Nonesuch