9/25/15

Kora . . .


As you know, perhaps all-too-well, I'm prone to fits of obsession. Running. Archery. Hebrew. Jewish novels. Jewish text. Boobs. Bikes. Kayaks. These things all run in to my mind and stay stuck there just long enough for something else to come in and bump them along.

My latest elbow-high? The KORA.

What, you ask, is the kora? It is a "21-string lute-bridge-harp." And WHAT, you ask, is THAT? It is an instrument, resembling the beautiful love child of a harp and a guitar that is very popular in Western Africa and in my mind.

The instrument, because of its parallel string structure allows you to play 11 strings with your left had and 10 with your right so you can have two totally different rhythms, harmonies, and pieces going at once - or just have one with a slight lag, etc. for musical effect. Because it is two instruments in one it does not technically fit into any characterizations/categories of traditional instruments which is odd considering it has been around for thousands of years (that know-it-all-teenaged-punk the saxophone, by contrast, is only a few hundred years old) and can be made from the fanciest of materials or just a few sticks, a gourd, and some string (we'll say dental floss as something the musical MacGyver would reach for).

The instrument is also extensively used (and here is where you might see the tie to my other obsessions) in Jewish music both traditional and current - particularly with Jewish congregations in tribal Africa (if my readings are correct).

Who is the greatest kora player going today? Seckou Keita. Who will, in time, be the greatest kora player in my house? ME (presuming Seckou Keita comes by for dinner - and I really, really want him to come over for dinner).

Here he is doing his thing in a live setting and I would highly suggest his album "22 Strings"