From Africa to Appalachia
|The kora's 21 strings are made of fishing line. Sissoko tunes the instrument by pushing the leather bands up and down the neck to adjust the strings.|
|Photo by Rob Hochschild|
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If Stephen Foster turned the clock a few generations back, Susanna's swain might've held not a banjo but a kora on his knee. The instruments are cousins: The predecessors of the modern-day banjo originated in Africa, crossing over with the slaves.
Perhaps that's why, when Canadian banjo whiz Jayme Stone met Mansa Sissoko, a Malian kora player and hereditary griot singer/storyteller who now lives in Quebec City, things started to click—or twang.
Stone didn't stop there: four years later, he traveled to Africa to research his instrument's roots. The experiences led him to collaborate on an album, Africa to Appalachia, with Sissoko.
On October 8, the two musicians brought their 26-string collaboration to Berklee. With guitarist Grant Gordy and percussionist Ricardo Gonzalez, they performed several songs that interworked traditional Malian melodies and rhythms with bluegrass instruments and influences—casting a new light on both cultures.
Click on the photo to learn more about the clinic.