The History of the Kora

The Kora is a traditional string instrument, originally from The Gambia, the smiling Coast of Africa. Very complete instrument that is known in the countries of West Africa.

Kora is a very original and different instrument, between a harp, a Spanish guitar and a lute …

There are also musicians and traditions with the kora in countries like Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Cote d’Ivoire … besides Gambia.


History of the Kora Sustainable Travel the Gambia

Kora is the instrument of the JALIS, the guild of musicians. The Jalis, also known as Griots, have traditionally been dedicated to music.

The jalis are troubadours and have a very special mission: to transmit the history of families and their land generation after generation.

Musicians, formerly, accompanied and entertaineds the celebrations and celebrations of royalty and mystics.

The History of the Kora Instrument…


First known kora was discovered on the Gambian coast, specifically in Brufut.

Jaliba Kouyateh Banjul kora Gambia


The kora offers the melody and accompaniment to the stories told by the jalis. These songs and narrations make the musicians into storytellers.

Their missions has been fundamental to the transmission of history.

In The Gambia, oral tradition is still fundamental in the country’s culture.

… the sound of the Kora is magical and can reach the heart … the melody that comes from its strings goes straight to the soul …


How was this instrument discovered? How did it get to Gambia?


History of the Kora Sustainable and conscious Travel to the Gambia West AFrica Occidental


Alagi Mbye, jali originally from Brufut, tells the story of the birth of the kora …


… Many years ago, on the African continent, there were no borders ,no passports and no border control. People traveled freely …

Each one did what they wanted or needed, some people looked for rivers to fish, jungle to hunt, seas, land near the rivers to cultivate … others traveled only to start life …

There was a gentleman named Korian Mousa Suso who traveled from Mali to Gambia. He was looking for a place to live and improve his life.


In his search, he arrived at the smiling coast, in Gambia. In a small town called Busumbala.

When he arrived at the town he went to visit the Alcalo (word Mandinka meaning Alkali or the village leader) to tell him that he was new to the town.

The Alkali  welcome him and informed the people of the village, as tradition in Gambia demands … to welcome the newcomers with affection.


pueblo Gambia África tradición


Currently, in the towns of the country, when a new person arrives in the town, he comes to visit the mayor, Alkali or town leader and he corresponds with a welcome and advice … following the African tradition and values.


The mayor of the town offered the stranger a cup of water as a sign of peace and tranquility.

Afterwards, the mayor gave him food and a house to stay in the village … The Mayor asked him: where are you from? – From Mali. I am looking for a place to live, to start my life and have a family. I believe that I have already finished my search … as soon as I arrived at Busumbala I felt at home … replied Korian Mousa

The next day, the mayor called all the townspeople to communicate that there was a foreigner living at home.

To give the official welcome, the town Mayor or Alkali  bought cola nuts to give to the whole town.

The cola nuts, is a tropical fruit that is eaten in celebrations such as welcoming guests, weddings, births, death and other celebrations.


Gambia África Tradición Jali

After living and working for a time in the village, Korian bought the cola nuts and took it to the mayor.

The foreigner, a handsome man, wanted to get married. He asked his guide, the mayor, for help him find a wife in Busumbala.

The mayor gathered all the elders of the village to ask if anyone would want to marry his daughter to Korian … most were reluctant because they thought he wanted to get married and return to Mali married.

One of Busumbala’s elders agreed and trusted Korian Mousa, offering to marry his daughter.

Her daughter was different, because she was an albino … 

People were prejudiced and it was very difficult for her to get married because she was an albino.

Korian was waiting for his new wife on the day of the wedding … a very happy day for him.

At African weddings, all the people and people from neighboring villages attend to greet and offer blessings to the new couple …

The jalis also attend to accompany the ceremony with their music, whether or not they are invited.


When the night came, everyone left … the two of them were alone … when the woman took off her clothes she was shaking, worried and ashamed for the color of her skin.

Korian told him that he should not be afraid … I love you as you are and you are special to me … your name is Kanku just like my mother, it is a sign.

She thanked him for his words and how to accept her without considering his albino status.

Thanks for loving me, in the town people do not approach me out of fear, they think I’m from another planet.

Kanku asked her husband to go to another town to start a new life together … he accepted it: there are many beautiful places.

Before they left, they received the blessing of the mayor … the couple emigrated to a town on the coast, Brufut.


Brufut is a village on the smiling coast of the Gambia …



Sannhementereng the Gambia Smiling Coast Sustainable Travel Tamala Travel


They decided to settle in Sanementereng … a sacred place near Brufut.

They did not know it was a spiritual place.

Once the new home was built, Korian went fishing …

Kanku was left alone at home and began to hear strange noises that kept her alert.

These sounds were from the spirits that lived with them in Sanementereng … Kanku had the ability to listen to the spirits, although he did not know it.

The spirits came to visit Kanku … because they believed that she was a spirit like them, not a human being.

One day, the noise was so deafening that Kanku felt afraid … he listened to them but he still could not see them.

When she shared her concerns with the husband, she confessed that she wanted to move her home. Korian refused because he did not think they were real. He felt tired of emigrating and wanted to continue living on the coast.

The next day, when Korian left … the spirits appeared to Kanku in human formdo not run, do not be afraid … we have seen you and we believe you are one of us … that’s why we came to visit you, said “Kachikally the spirit.

The spirit admired the beauty of the albino woman …

Come with us … come and live with us in our world. Humans do not accept you or love youthis is not your world.

Kanku replied that I would like to go with you, but I love my husband and he also loves me. I do not want to leave it alone.

While they were talking, the husband arrived and the spirits disappeared … Korian Mousa did not have the ability to communicate with the spirits.

Tourism Brufut Sannehmentereng the Gambia West Africa


That same night, when Korian Mousa was asleep, in his  dreams, the spirit appeared to him playing a beautiful melody with Kora.

The spirits were dressed in white and softly played the strings of an extraordinary instrument.

Korian Mousa woke up and woke up his wife to tell him that he had seen in dreams people playing a beautiful melody with an instrument that he had never seen before …

I would like to have this instrument … whatever it may cost… I do not care what it costs me!

Kanku smiled …

The spirits appeared during their conversation … with the instrument in their hands, Korian Mousa still did not know they were not human.

He was fascinated with the kora and  asked them if he could  touch the instrument …

Yes, in exchange for something, the spirit responded. Korian Mousa offered his horse.

The spirit confessed to him that he was not human and does not need a horse … but you can touch it but in exchange for someone who loves you very much.

Korian was surprised and angry: my wife ??? This dream is making me nervous … you can go! I can not exchange my wife for an instrument. My wife has no price.

The spirit answered him, if you love her you must let her come with us to the spiritual world. In our world we admired her and nobody will rejects her. She is not of this world, but she does not want to leave because she loves you … If you love her, you should let her go.

The spirit continued with his words: Are you in love with the kora? … Then let Kanku come  with us.



History of the Kora Sustainable and conscious Travel to the Gambia West AFrica Occidental

Then Kanku asked his beloved to let her go … I want to decide. let me go to a world where there are no prejudices. Let me go and take this instrument, the kora. …

I know that people will remember you for being the person who brought this wonderful instrument to the world

Every time you touch the strings of the kora I will be by your side even if you do not see me …

The spirit left all its knowledge on the instrument of the Kora to Korian Mousa … taking Kankun to his world.  


Korian created a song for his family, the Jalis Suso ...


Currently, all of Kora’s instrumentalists know how to play the song that Korian created.



“Bakan buka jaka fon, tabi aljana … or … this story is over for now!!! …



… but we will continue talking about the kora and the jalis in the others articles …



jaliba kouyateh kora player gambia


We and  the best instrumentalist Kora player from  of

Gambia JALIBA KOUYATEH at the Banjul Airport, 2016.






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