Globe IconCora Connection Presents,

An Introduction to the music & culture of West Africa


 
  David Gilden and Banning Eyre of the Boston-based West African folk ensemble Cora Connection present one of the richest and most surprising cultural legacies of Africa--the music and folklore of the Mandinka Empire.
Musicians & Explorers, Gilden and Eyre present music, stories and slide images of their travels in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Guinea. Gilden has played the 21-string harp-lute, the kora, for 14 years, and Eyre has spent over a decade exploring African guitar styles. Together, they present a view of African culture that is both authoritative and passionate, as well as highly entertaining.

 
   photo of Malian guitar griots Beyond West Africa's better-known drumming and choral singing traditions, lies the world of the Mandinka griots or jalis -- traditional oral historians and master musicians. The griot's music is complex, delicate, swinging and loaded with history and wisdom that resonates as much with Celtic folk, the blues and jazz as it does with Afro-Cuban music, reggae and R&B.
Ancestral instruments--the kora, the banjo-like ngoni and the wooden-slatted balaphone--remain the griot players' principle tools. Modern griots have also adapted the guitar, using it to imitate the rhythms and melodic phrasing of the older instruments.
       Griot guitarists have become a vital part of the tradition, showing its ability to adapt to a changing world. Griots are also reservoirs of history, and singers that must master a large repertoire of compositions detailing family lineages, historical epics and entertaining commentary on contemporary life.

 
  Cora Connection's school program presents the world of West African griots. The program also explores the link between African and American music, revealing the African roots of the blues and rock-and-roll. Familiar rhythms and tonalities and prominent use of the guitar help young Americans to find themselves in another culture, and hopefully, to discover that it is not so far away after all.
In addition to playing for the students and inviting them to participate in the music, Gilden and Eyre also present dramatic slide images from their travels in Africa, coupled with excerpts from their own field recordings. The result is powerful, transporting students and teachers alike directly to modern day Africa.
  Photo of Cora Connection in the classroom.
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Biographical Information:
Bullet Banning Eyre: Guitar Bullet David Gilden: Kora
  Here are some images from our travels in West Africa (click on the picture to see a bigger version, and learn about these Mandinka musicians.), and a listing of past school workshops.

  A popular Gambia musician,
Yakuba Saho...
[Photo of Tuning the Cora]
Jeli Madi Suso picks
out a calabash...
[Jeli Madi Suso at the market]
Passing on the Manding tradition,
Sidiki Diabate teaching his sons...
[Cora Class]

kora drawing
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