GAMBIA - The Art of the Kora


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Jali Nyama Suso was known and loved throughout his native Gambia and renowned the world over as one of the greatest kora harp players. This recording was the first release of a solo kora and griot music album anywhere. Jali Nyama, whose real name was Mohamadu Lamin Suso, was the eldest of four brothers, and the only one who took up the kora to follow the profession of traditional music and oratory of the Mandinka people, known as jaliyaa. A practitioner of jaliyaa is known as a jali (or if a woman, jali muso). Jaliyaa is multi-faceted, requiring the jali to be a singer, oral historian, genealogist and praiser, with emphasis on one or more of these depending on ability, interest and circumstance. The kora is a 21-string harp, strung today with nylon, but in the past with rawhide. The body is made from a large half calabash covered with cowhide and pierced through by a stout neck of rosewood that also forms the tailpiece. This manner of construction identifies it as a spike harp, a type of instrument unique to West Africa. The traditional role of the kora in jaliyaa is to accompany singing. The kora player himself may sing, or he may accompany a vocal soloist, male or female. In addition, kora players create solo pieces from songs by varying the basic ostinato, by adding improvised passages called birimintingo, and by playing the vocal line on the instrument.

This product was added to our catalog on Friday 27 December, 2019.

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