Uncle Roger's Notebooks of Daily Life

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kora, Kora, Everywhere

I've been a fan of the kora, a 21-stringed instrument from Western Africa, for quite some time, ever since I discovered Toumani Diabate. I love the intricate patterns of sounds that players weave with all 18 fingers on their three hands. Okay, so kora players have only the usual numbers of fingers and hands and use only their thumb and forefinger. Still, the music is amazing and very moving.

Recently, thanks to the Friday night concerts at the de Young Museum, I got the chance to hear a kora in person. In the hands of the young master, Karamo Susso, I was literally moved to tears by the beauty of the music. If you ever have the chance to attend a concert featuring a kora, I strongly recommend doing so.

Yesterday, in the midst of running around doing a million errands, I was surprised to hear the distinctive sounds of a kora emanating from the radio on KFOG. Moments later, I hear Paul Simon's voice and it turns out that his latest album, "So Beautiful or So What", features the kora on the song "Rewrite". I did some digging and it turns out the kora player is Yacouba Sissoko. Naturally, I've added the album to my wish list.

Tonight, once again, I heard a kora on KFOG and this time it was Bruce Cockburn's song Mango from his 1999 album, "Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu". Daniel Janke played kora on three songs on that album. Unfortunately, this album appears to be out of print, but I'll keep my eyes open for a copy at thrift stores and on eBay. I have no doubts I'll find a copy in the near future.

So now, I've got 21 strings on the brain and I don't mind a bit.

Journal Description

My life is, to me, ripe with frequent challenges, occasional successes, spontaneous laughter, adequate tears, and enough *life* to last me a lifetime. To you, however, it surely seems most pedestrian. And therefore, I recycle the name I used previously and call this my Notebooks of Daily Life. Daily, because it's everyday in nature, ordinary. These conglomeration of events that are my life are of interest to me because I live it, perhaps mildly so to those who are touched by it, and could only be of perverse, morbid curiosity to anyone else. Yet, I offer them here nonetheless. Make of them what you will, and perhaps you can learn from my mistakes.