The kora is a 21-string instrument originating from Western Africa.Resembling both a harp and a lute, this unique instrument has a gourd-like resonator box covered in animal hide that sits below a long hardwood neck. The player can either sit or stand to play a range of notes stretching over three octaves.
History of the Kora
The history of the kora begins in its native West Africa where it was used to preserve folk stories and songs about West African hardship and oral history. Many folk legends exist around its origins: including that the first kora was created by a woman in the kansala caves, in what is now known as The Republic of the Gambia. Early recorded writings of the instrument date back to the 17th and 18th century, Western travelers most often described it as a great harp. Africans introduced the kora to American music when they were brought over as slaves and new genres. such as afrofolk. combined the kora with instruments like the banjo to create brand new styles of folk song. The kora has been used for all kinds of genres including jazz, flamenco and folk but still most predominantly features in music from Gambia and Mali.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£300 - £1,000

Hear the Kora

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How to Play

A West African instrument that is played by plucking the strings with both hands while holding the instrument upright. The player's thumbs are used to dampen certain strings to create a distinctive rhythm.

In Popular Music

The Kora has rarely but occasionally been featured in popular music including reportedly 'In Your Eyes' by Peter Gabriel and its close relation the gravi-kora has been featured in recordings by jazz pioneer Herbie Hancock.

Famous Players

Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko

Close Relations

Harp, Ngoni
Video Credit: Merdinhas / "Toumani Diabate's Symetric Orchestra"'s DVD
Understanding the Kora


West Africa (Mandinka people)


13th century






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