instrument gallery logo

The kora is a 21 string West African harp lute traditionally played by griots or hereditary storytellers of the Mande culture (Mandinka, Maninka, Malinke) as a musical accompaniment to their epic tales. Today the kora has become a very popular instrument used in pop, world and jazz music. Traditionally found in parts of Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, the kora is one of a family of harp lutes with the same basic construction of a large gourd resonator covered by animal hide (antelope or cow), with a long pole neck. The strings are attached to the bottom of the gourd and pass over a large bridge to attach to leather thong tuning rings on the neck. Usually two smaller poles are attached as handles. The kora has the most strings of this family of instruments and is by far the most versatile often being played in complex simultaneous rhythms, melodies, and accompaniments.

Other West African harp lutes include the 3-4 string bolon (bolombata, bolombato, bulumbata) of Gambia, Guinea and Mali, the 2 string Ivory Coast bororo, the 4-6 string donsonkoni (dunsukoni) of Mali and Guinea, the 6-7 string Ivory Coast ko, the 6-7 string Burkina Faso konchuchun, the 6 string Ivory Coast kori, the 6 string seperewa of Ghana, the 15-20 string seron of Guinea, and the 5-9 string simbing of Gambia and Senegal.

Country: Various
Region: Africa
Type: harp lute
Kora - West African harp lute
©  R. Raine-Reusch, May 2002