Sebastian Schultz » Information » African Musical Instruments the Kora and the Kosika

African Musical Instruments the Kora and the Kosika

The kora

Country of origin
The kora comes from West Africa, but mostly Gambia. The kora also comes from the Mandika tribes.

Physical description
A kora is an instrument made from half a big calabash covered in cow skin to make a resonator and has a notched bridge like a guitar. The strings are traditionally made out of leather and gut but they have been replaced with nylon. A kora sounds like a harp and has twenty one strings, but sometimes it has more and sometimes it has less. Eleven of the strings of the kora are played by the left hand and ten are played by your right hand.

Traditional use
Traditionally koras come from griot families who are traditional storytellers, historians and genealogists. The calabashes that the kora is made from is also used to carry water, clean rice and as food containers.

Interesting facts
Some kora players use double necked koras allowing them to switch from one tuning to another quickly.
An electric model of the kora has been build.
The kora is the national symbol for culture in Gambia.
In Nigeria the calabash has been used as a helmet for a motorbike.
A lot of West African musicians like to be called a jali instead of a griot which is a French word.

The kosika

Country of origin
The kosika comes from Ghana, in West Africa, but it is also found every where in West Africa. In Ghana, the kosika is also known as the kitikpo, the televi, the asalasua, the akasa, the bakita and the kokosiko.

Physical description
The kosika is a percussion instrument made of two small gourds filled with beads tied together with string, a bit like two maracas. A gourd is a dried hollow shell of a fruit from a plant. Gourds mostly come from a plant called a calabash. When playing one gourd is held in your hand and the other is swung side-to-side making a clack when they hit.

Traditional use
In Ghana the kosika is a children’s toy. The children use it to pass the time. The kosikas are said to make your rhythm and your eye-hand coordination better. kosikas are also thought to stretch, strengthen and relax your wrists, arms and shoulders.
In Mali the kosika is only used by women to entertain children. In Cameroon whenever the villagers gather to meet their chief they shake their kosikas as soon as the chief enters the room.

Interesting facts
The traditional kosika break easily in some climates.
The basic is the main style of playing the kosika because it is the easiest.
Another way of style of playing the kosika is called catch. As the gourd on the outside swings around your finger for a bottom hit, catch the gourd with your ring and pinkie fingers just as it hits the inner gourd.
You can combine styles to make longer phrases.

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