The Kora is a traditional long-necked harp lute of the Malinke people in western Africa. The Malinke people are also referred to as Maninka, Mandinka, Mandingo, or Manding. They are a West African Tribe residing in parts of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.
The Kora instrument’s body comprises of a long hardwood neck that goes through a calabash gourd resonator, itself covered by a leather soundboard. Twenty-one leather or nylon strings are attached to the top of the neck with leather tuning rings. The strings go 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 African History of the Kora is a very distinctive and fascinating history. Although, Its origins are unknown, but in West Africa, it is traditionally associated with royalty, the ruling classes, or religious practices.
In ancient times, the kora was used by musicians to accompany narrations, recitations, and songs in honour of a patron. the Mandinka kora was also used by historians, genealogists and storytellers to tell their stories and their past to their descendants.
For the African kings, the kora served significant purposes. they would have the kora player entertain them and also pass down their history to the next generation. Kora players were not only known to be musicians but are also regarded as oral historians, and their place was highly valued in griot families. With a unique sound that is similar to a lute and a guitar combined, it produces the enjoyable sounds of Africa that uplifts the soul.
Koras are hand-crafted instruments, also, they can be made to fit the player’s specifications.The kora’s body is made from a calabash gourd cut in half and partially covered with cow or goat skin. The strings are made from fishing line which provides a brilliant tone and can easily be purchased at the local market.
The player tunes the kora by moving the leather rings to achieve the correct tension on each string.
Those that have heard the 21-string African instrument, the kora, would undoubtedly agree that it is one of the world’s most beautiful sounding instruments, especially in the hands of its most renowned players like Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko, Seckou Keita, Sona Jobarteh and many more.