Globe Icon  Jali Madi Suso buys a calabash to make a new kora

Photo jali Madi Suso at an African market
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When Gambian griot, Jali Madi Suso wants to build his new kora he travels to Brikama, home to many Mandinka musicians -- or Jali Ba's -- and skilled artisans.

Jali Madi Suso's compound is around a mile from the Atlantic Ocean in Gunjur, one of the many fishing villages the dot the coast of the Gambia. Traveling to Brikama is easy, you take a bush taxi--basically a jeep with a covered back--crammed to capacity with people carrying tubs of fish, bread and vegetables. With maybe a Goat and or bag of rice on top! It takes about 45 minutes to reach Brikama on the sandy dirt road that goes from village to village.

Visiting "Konte Kunda", home of the late kora jali, Alhaji Bai Konte Jali Madi shares stories while sipping sweet hot mint tea with Dembo, Bai's first son, a well kown kora musician (not only in The Gambia but also in the U.K.! ) They chatt about their families and the latest news well in to the night. Children stop by to greet them, if they are lucky they might hear a Jali Madi play a new song. But it is getting late, time for sleep.


Morning comes to soon, the sun has not yet reached its peak and so it is still cool, a good time to go to the market. For his new kora, Jali Madi buys a calabash from a farmer, a hardwood neck, a bridge, and three dowels from a carpenter, an iron ring from a blacksmith, cowskin from a butcher and fishing line for strings. When he gets back home, he and his young apprentices spend a couple of days constructing the new kora. Once built and dried in the hot sun, the kora needs to be slowly tuned and broken in before it gets its voice.


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