Destinations Podcast: 09. Strings in Africa
The kora, which is a 21-string African harp-lute made from a skin covered calabash with a hardwood neck is described by Derek Gripper as “one of the most complex instruments in Africa, an instrument able to perform bass lines and harmonic accompaniment while simultaneously improvising virtuosic melodic lines, creating the impression of a three-piece ensemble on just one instrument.”

The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp, though when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques.

Kora players have traditionally come from griot families (also from the Mandinka nationalities) who are traditional historians, genealogists and storytellers who pass their skills on to their descendants. The instrument is played in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and the Gambia.

The ngoni or "n'goni" is a string instrument originating in West Africa. Its body is made of wood or calabash with dried animal (often goat) skin head stretched over it. The ngoni, which can produce fast melodies, appears to be closely related to the akonting and thexalam.

Starting with a wonderful Kora composition by malian Toumani Diabate and finishing off with Derek Gripper's adaptation of the same song for acoustic guitar, this mix takes you through some of Africa’s greatest string music composed from the early times until recent ones.


mix, words & collage (inspired from Malick Sidibé's work) by Tzuc


  • Toumani Diabate - Jarabi (Kaira, 1988); Mali
  • Jali Musa Jawara - Haidara (Yasimika, 1990); Mali
  • Royal Band de Thies - Doudhane (Kadior Demb, 2012); Senegal
  • Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate - Ai Ga Bani (In the Heart of the Moon, 2005); Mali
  • Swahili Tribe - Nahawandi (Tanganyika); Swahili
  • Rail Band - Dugah (Rail Band, 1973); Mali
  • Tinariwen - Sendad Eghlalan (Emmaar, 2013); Mali
  • Alkibar Gignor - Adounia (La Paix, 2012); Mali
  • King Ayisoba - Peace Song (Wicked Leaders, 2014); Ghana
  • Kasse Mady Diabate - Douba Diabira (Kirike, 2014); Mali
  • Toumani Diabate & Sidiki Diabate - Lampedusa (Toumani & Sidiki, 2014); Mali
  • Derek Gripper - Jarabi (Passion) (One Night On Earth; Music from the Strings of Mali, 2012); South Africa





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