Carter and a Kora

Regina Carter is a violinist, classically trained, who has become famous for her overall talent and her innovative musical explorations.  I’ve known of her for a while.  She tours widely – in fact she’ll be playing with the Grant Park Symphony down at the Pritzker Pavilion here in Chicago this weekend, a program of Duke Ellington and Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  I’m not going to be able to make it, but as I’ve listened to more of her music over the weekend I think I’ve been inspired to buy an album – I’m likely to go with her most recent- Southern Comfort, released in 2013.

The performance below features Carter on the violin in trio with an accordion and a kora, an instrument I’m only just learning about.  The kora is prominent in much west African music, and is one tool of the griot, or jali, people who are responsible for transmitting history and culture in many west African societies.  The music of the jali is one vehicle used to communicate the oral traditions of the cultures of which they are a part; their role is a special and prominent one.

The plucked strings of the kora are extremely pleasant on my ears.  The instrument has 21 of them, generally tuned to a 7 note scale similar to Western music, and it has some similarities to the harp/lute/guitar – but really it’s just a kora. As a violinist with four strings to deal with, I can only imagine that tuning the instrument must be a nightmare!  The kora can be fitted with pegs, but note the one featured in this video – it has rings around the neck of the instrument, which sit atop the tied/wound strings that the player grips and turns to tune.

Carter notes that the compositions in this NPR Tiny Desk concert come from Mali.

Thanks for reading.


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