Muhamadou Salieu Suso was born into a family of traditional Gambian musicians/historians that extends back nearly 1,000 years. Begining at age eight, he ws trained to play kora, a form if West African harp. He is the descendant of JaliMasy Wulayn Suso, the inventor of the kora. Salieu Suso has performed thoughought Africa and Europe with various groups, including the vary popular Jaliya Kafo! Ensemble.
You are listening to the kora, a 21 stringed musical instrument strung with monofilament fishing line in varying thickness. In the days before monofilament was available the strings were made of antelope hide. Kora music is the sound of the spirit of African Mandingo music.
The kora is made from half a gourd or calabash with a hardwood post, that runs through it The calabash is covered with a cowhide that is stretched over the open side of the half calabash and then left in the sun to dry tight and hold the handposts in place. A tall bridge is mounted upright on the skin face of the instrument and separates the playing strings into two planes, the kora player supports the instrument by holding the handposts with the third forth and fifth fingers. The notes are played with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. The player tunes the kora by moving leather rings around the neck of the instrument to achieve the appropriate tension of each string. Kora players use a variety of tunings, one of the important aspects of kora playing. Traditionally, when Kings and Queens enjoyed the music they would drop a gift of money into the sound hole of the calabash body.