Origins of the Kora

by Christina Barnett, and Kent JonesOrigins…The Kora is a Mandengo 21-stringed chordophonic calabash bridge-harp that is plucked simultaneously with both hands. The strings are arranged with eleven strings in the left hand, and ten in the right. The scale alternates between left and right strings. Traditionally, only Djelis play the instrument, but since it has been exported to the west, there are non-djeli players and amateurs who have picked it up. The first western account of the Kora was by the Scottish explorer Mungo Park in the eighteenth century, but Mandengo legend attributes its creation to Jali Madi Wuleng (with the help of a jinn) during the Kabu empire. He is attributed with the composition of Kuruntu Kelefa and Kelefaba, the earliest pieces in memory for the Kora. (“Mande Music”, Charry, 2000)

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A Brief History on the Jembe and its Entry into the United States

The particulars surrounding the birth of the jembe are still contested by ethnomusicologists with an interest in the instrument and its cultural associations. Professor Eric Charry in his text, ‘Mande Music: Traditional and Modern Music of the Maninka and Mandinka of Western Africa”, suggest that the history of the instrument may be traced by tracing the history of a specific class of artisans, the blacksmiths (Numus). The association between the jembe and the Numus is based on the fact that the blacksmiths (Numus) are the ones entrusted with working intimately with the elements and materials needed to make the jembe.

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Ngoni: Construction, Tuning, and Playing

Common regional/ethnic names: bappe, diassare, hoddu (Pulaar), koliko (Frafra), komsa, kontigi (Hausa), koni, konting (Mandinka), xalam (Wolof), molo (Songhay/Zarma), ndere, ngoni (Bambara), and tidinit (Hassaniyya Arabic).

Playing and Construction:

The ngoni is a simple lute constructed with a wooden body acting as a sound box. The body is oval-shaped and is covered with cattle hide.

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