African Harp (Kora)

from Mariama & Vieux

A kora is a mandinka harp built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator with a long hardwood neck. The skin is supported by two handles that run under it. It supports a notched double free-standing bridge. It doesn't fit into any one category of musical instruments, but rather several, and must be classified as a "double-bridge-harp-lute". The strings run in two divided ranks, making it a double harp. They do not end in a soundboard but are held in notches on a bridge, making it a bridge harp. They originate from a string arm or neck and cross a bridge directly supported by a resonating chamber, making it a lute too.

The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp, though when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques. The player uses only the thumb and index finger of both hands to pluck the strings in polyrhythmic patterns (using the remaining fingers to secure the instrument by holding the hand posts on either side of the strings). Ostinato riffs ("Kumbengo") and improvised solo runs ("Birimintingo") are played at the same time by skilled players.

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Mariama & Vieux Ziguinchor, Senegal

Both born in Casamance,souther in Senegal Mariama & Vieux are two griots peoples carrying the lineage of their family’s kinsfolk whose music and stories are passed through the generation from father to son.

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