The Journey of the Kora

Ballake Sissoko's new album, For Peace, comes out Feb. 5.


The Kora is an instrument originated by the people of West Africa. The instrument’s body consists of a long hardwood neck and twenty-one strings. This instrument falls into several categories of musical instruments because of its many strings, which allowed African Americans to creatively display one of their many musical talents. The Kora favors the harp in which both hands are needed to create a variety of rhythm patterns for the musicians to play. The people of West Africa would call their traveling artists ‘Griots”, who used the Kora to keep the tradition of oral history alive. Much like the African Americans who used the Kora in their folk tunes as storytelling, to express their emotions and hardships. This instrument made its way over to America when African Americans brought it over from West Africa after being taken captive, then integrating it into their folk tunes

The Journey

A lot of people when they envision musicians playing the Kora, see white Americans, though the instrument is indigenous to West Africa. The journey of the Kora started may have started in West Africa but has made its way around the world. Not just did African Americans carry it with them to America to influence their music. Different types of people and cultures everywhere have incorporated the instrument into their customs. Showing the assimilation of the instrument.


As we know the musical instrument was picked up from the people of West Africa by African Americans. African Americans used the Kora in Afro-Folk music. Afro-Folk music was composed of many different instruments aside from the Lora. It included instruments such as the bones, djembe, and the banjo, etc. All of these used in their songs to express their emotions. Folk music was the outlet for African Americas to tell their stories while influencing all around them

Toumani Diabaté

Toumani Diabaté is a famous Kora musician from Mali. He comes from a griot family. His family has been playing the Kora for many years.




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