Tag Archives: kora

Diali Cissokho Brings North Carolina and M’bour Together on Routes

Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba – Routes (Twelve Eight Records, 2018)

Routes is the new album by North Carolina-based Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba. Diali Cissokho is a Senegalese kora maestro who moved to Pittsboro a few years ago and formed a band with American musicians.

This new recording has deep Senegalese and North Carolinian roots. Diali Cissokho traveled with his American bandmates to his birthplace, M’bour to record an album together. The band’s bassist and producer Jonathan Henderson and engineer Jason Richmond setup a mobile unit in a hotel near the ocean and invited local musicians.

After the sessions in Senegal, the producer added North Carolina musicians to the tracks. Guests included renowned violinist Jennifer Curtis, North Carolina Heritage Award-winning mandolinist Tony Williamson, jazz and gospel vocalists Shana Tucker and Tamisha Waden, and the excellent pedal steel guitar player Eric Heywood.



The final result was Route, an eclectic and deeply satisfying album that features a mix of traditional jali (griot) kora, Afropop, Senegalese salsa and American gospel, jazz and North Carolina roots music.


Buy Routes


Artist Profiles: Salieu Suso

Salieu Suso

Born into a family of traditional African jalis (musician-historians), Salieu Suso began training on the 21-stringed kora at the age of 8, and began his professional career by the age of fifteen. He has performed widely throughout the U.S., Africa and Europe, and is known for his diverse range of musical collaborations.

In 2003 he ventured into an exciting exploration of African and Afro-Cuban rhythms with three master percussionists: Benny Arocho (bata, bugarabu, Thai klong yaw); Olympia Ward (chekere, conga, jembe); and John Ward (jembe).

One of Salieu Suso’s songs, “Sidi Yellah” was featured on the album Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City, a compilation of Manden and Mandinka Music by musicians in New York City (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2001)

Salieu composed Tootie’s Last Suit, the soundtrack to a documentary film.


Griot (Lyrichord Discs, 19930
Message from Home, with Pharoah Sanders (Verve Records, 1996)


Artist Profiles: Papa Susso

Papa Susso is a master kora (African harp/lute) player and jali (oral historian, also known as griot) from The Gambia, West Africa. He hails from a long line of jalis from the Mandinka people.

Taught by his father, he has played kora since the age of five. The kora, a 21 stringed harp-lute, evolved from earlier hunter harps used by the Mandinka people. It is said that the Susso family invented the kora.

Today, Papa Susso, based both in the Bronx (New York City) and Gambia, is considered a goodwill ambassador, traveling throughout the world to share his culture with others.


Artist Profiles: Malamini Jobarteh

Malamini Jobarteh was a jali and one of Gambia’s greatest musical and cultural icons. In the late 1970s Alhaji Bai Konte and Malamini Jobarteh toured Europe and North America. Malamini Jobarteh later recorded with Dembo Konte, Alhaji Bai’s son.

Malamini Jobarteh resided in Jobarteh Kunda, the Jobarteh family compound. There, he ran the Teramang Traditional Music School.

Malamini Jobarteh died July 31 in Brikama, Gambia.


Baatoto, with Dembo Konte (1987)
Jaliya, with Dembo Konte (Rounder, 1990)
Same Sun, Same Moon, with Rudiger Oppermann (1992)


Artist Profiles: Dembo Jobarteh

Dembo Jobarteh

Dembo Jobarteh was a member of a well know jeli family (known as Jobarteh in Gambia and Diabate in Mali). His father played the kora and his mother was a griot [jali] singer. Dembo was born in 1976 in Niani Kayai, The Gambia.

From an early age on he was taught to sing and play the kora, a harp lute. Later he also learned to drum and play bala. He spent a few years as a musician in Dakar, Senegal.

In 2001 he became the manager of Gambian Griot School of Music and Dance at Serekunda, The Gambia.

Dembo Jobarteh said. “For generations my family has held this profession. I myself started reciting stories when I was 9 years old. At that time I came to live with a marabu, a very wise and well-respected man. There I studied the Koran, music and worked in the groundnut and rice paddies. After three years I moved to another village and another job. Later I worked at a bakery. But no matter what I was doing, my musical training continued. I learned hundreds of songs and also studied the drums, balafon [bala] and singing.

Many people can learn to play the kora. But to play like a griot [jali] is a gift from God and, as we say in West Africa, also a gift from the devils. If they like you, they will teach you.

When I am alone at night I play this instrument especially for them. Life is there to enjoy. But to do so you need to be healthy. Therefore I advise people to take good care of their body and their mind and to forget about self-interest. If you share what you’ve got, you’ll improve your own life and that of others. Then you will truly enjoy life.

Yes, I like to tell people what is important in life. It is a family tradition. If I did not live according to tradition, I would miss the life that was meant for me.”

Dembo Jobarteh died on March 15, 2008 in Serekunda.


Dembo (2000)
Life (2001)
Enjoy (2002)
Listen All (2003)
Gambia Banko (2005)
Roots (2007)


Spellbinding Meeting of the Celtic and African Harps

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita – Soar (bendigedig, 2018)

Two exceptional musician representing distinct traditions and harps celebrate the magnificent osprey bird on their album titled Soar.

Welsh musician Catrin Finch plays the Welsh harp and contributes the Celtic and western classical traditions. Senegalese kora player contributes the musical influences of West Africa and his world music collaborations. The result is a superb set of musical pieces where the two forms of harps engage in a beautiful genre-defying dialog.

Buy Soar


Artist Profiles: Sona Jobarteh

Sona Jobarteh

Maya Sona Jobarteh was born in London in 1983. She is the first professional female kora player. Sona is part of the Jobarteh/Diabaté family of jelis (griots), one of the five major kora-playing jeli families from West Africa.

She is the granddaughter of the master jeli musician Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, who migrated from Mali to the Gambia. Her cousin is the well-known, celebrated Kora player Toumani Diabaté. Her mother is English.

A virtuoso kora player, Sona Jobarteh is a modern day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries. The British-Gambian artist has modernized the presentation of kora music and brings a rhythmic approach to her compositions that fits with her remarkable voice.


Afro Acoustic Soul (Sona Soul Records, 2008)
Motherland: The Score (African Guild Records, 2010)
Fasiya (African Guild Records, 2011)


Artist profiles: Sona Jobarteh

Sona Jobarteh was born in London in 1983. She is the first female kora virtuoso from the prestigious West African Jobarteh jeli (griot) family coming from a long line of hereditary musicians. She is the granddaughter of the master jeli Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and cousin to the celebrated kora maestro Toumani Diabate.

In her teenage years, Sona attended the Royal College of Music, the Purcell School of Music and worked on several orchestral projects including the ‘River of Sound’ with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. She also performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Britten Sinfonia Milton Keynes City Orchestra and the Viva Chamber Orchestra, Toumani Diabate, Damon Albarn, Oumou Sangare, Kasse Mady Diabate, Sambou Suso, Juldeh Camara to name just a few. She also composed music for the film,Motherland: The Score” for the multi-award winning film Motherland.

Sona Jobarteh released her album Fasiya (West African Guild Records) in 2011. Fasiya includes renowned West African musicians such as Juldeh Camara Sankung Jobarteh Femi Temowo Baba Galle Kante Babacar Dieng and Surahata Susso.


Music of the Diaspora (5 Years Later Soundtrack) – (Souljazzfunk 2006)
Afro Acoustic Soul (Sona Soul Records 2008)
Motherland: The Score (African Guild Records 2010)
Fasiya (African Guild Records 2011)


Sekou Kouyate to Showcase at Visa for Music in Rabat

Guinean kora innovator Sekou Kouyate is set to perform on November 23, 2017 at 21:30 at Salle la Renaissance in Rabat, Morocco. This concert is part of the Visa for Music showcases.

The lineup includes Sekou Kouyate on electric kora and vocals; Teun Creemers on bass; and Frank Durand on drums.

Sekou Kouyate released an excellent solo album in 2015 titled Sabaru.


Melodic Kora Designs

Kane Mathis – Counterpoints

Kane Mathis – Counterpoints (2017)

American composer and multi-instrumentalist Kane Mathis has been a student and player of the West African kora for many years. On Counterpoints he delivers a set of 6 musical pieces played on a Mandinka Magic kora, crafted by luthier Jeffrey Bodony.

Counterpoints includes 4 traditional Mandinka melodies along with two original compositions, “Mamaandi” and “Sila Mesengo” by Mathis.

Counterpoints is a remarkable collection of solo pieces on the 21-string West African harp known as kora.

The album is available from kanemathis.bandcamp.com