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Made by Babili Kanouté
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Audio Excerpt

Music: Timbiri Winsé, Ouagadougou,
Burkina Faso, 2000, Coll. C.Bégin, video 8mm,
Canadian Museum of Civilization

  Kora - CMC no. 2000.139.9 / Photo: Carmelle Bégin


The kora, an instrument typical of West Africa, has features common to the harp and the lute. It is found among the Malinke people of Senegal, Guinea and Mali, and is also played in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. The body of the instrument is made from a gourd or calabash that has been cut.

A support for the bridge is set across the opening and covered with a skin that is held in place with studs. The leather rings around the neck are used to tighten the 21 strings that give the instrumenta range of over three octaves. The kora is Africa's most sophisticated harp.

  Kora / Photo : Carmelle Bégin

In traditional society, the kora was played at the royal court. Today, it is heard at weddings and baptisms, and in restaurants. It is also found in modern orchestras.

Kora / Photo : Carmelle Bégin  

The kora's repertoire is expanding rapidly; it is a source of inspiration for contemporary musicians, who continue to produce new works. Kora can be played alone or with instruments such as the balafon, the guitar or the djembe. In Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Gambia, they are used primarily by the griots, professional musicians who are members of a caste.