Build A Kora And Learn How To Play It

Griottes build their own Kora, and will have learned this technique from their elders as children, and been part of this process.

From killing the animal – deer, antelope or cow- soaking, drying and stretching the skin, shaving it, then choosing the right sized calabash onto which the skin is pinned. Then a hard wood stick is chosen onto which the strings are wound with gut tuning rings.

Its left to dry in the hot sun and meanwhile the handles are made and carved and a design is often burnt into the body of the calabash to personalise it.

Once assembled it takes a lot of playing to tune the strings of the kora. Over the first few months the kora’s sound will mature and become more resonant.

It is by listening and watching the playing of the kora that it can be learnt.

Children will not start playing until they are 8 years old at least, but will have grown up surrounded by and absorbing the traditional way that this important African musical instrument is built

7 Day Kora Construction & Tuition Course

The Gambia Music school offers a one week residential course for those with a real interest in the kora.

Breakfast – 9-10am
Course starts 10-12pm for building the kora and 4-6pm for learning to play.

Timings can be altered to suit your needs but lunch is usually at 2pm in Gambia.

Each day in the afternoon you can take lesson, practice and listen to the kora.

DAY 1 – the skin will already be soaked and you will help shave and stretch it. You will choose a calabash from a selection they have or go to the market if you are after something particularly large or small.

DAY 2 – It’s a two man process the shaving and stretching so Yankuba or his brother Marfu will share this job with you. In

DAY3 – You’ll stretch the skin over the calabash , add the handles and pin it in place , then place in the sun

DAY 4 – You’ll choose a stick and wind on the gut rings, as well as make a bridge

DAY5 – The strings and bridge need to be attached and the tuning process begins. You’ll learn the complex tuning for your kora and play it in.

if you are staying for 7 days then you’ll keep playing and burn or paint your own design into the calabash ..