FAQ

We will endeavour to continually update this part of the site with questions as they are asked or as we think of them! If your answer isn’t here, just write us an email and we’ll be happy to help!

– Koras
– Accessories
– Orders & Payments
– Workshops
– France
– Kafountine, Senegal
– Playing the Kora
– Delivery, Packaging & Customs


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Koras

How many strings does a kora have?

21 strings in general, but in parts of the Casamance and in the Gambia 22 are quite common.

 

How much does a kora weigh?

Each kora is different so weights do vary. However, as an example they weigh between 3.5 and 7kg largely depending on the wood and whether any bass heads are used, as well as the size of the kora itself.

What are the strings made of?

Standard strings are made of Nylon fishing line. Our specialist strings are made of Fluorocarbon (sometimes referred to as KF) and Hard Nylon.

What colour are the strings?

The normal and hard nylon strings we use are all clear; they do however arrived in colour coded envelopes and matching diagram to help you string up.

What were the strings made of before Nylon?

Animal hide

Are koras always tuned in F

No, they can be tuned to any key.

 

Accessories

 

Orders & Payments

Is it ready to play as soon as it’s delivered?

Once you’ve put the bridge up (video to follow) and tuned it – away you go.

Do you always have koras in stock?

Often no, we have several we use for workshops but most koras are made to order. Although look at our plans for the  Project Kora 200  for more details on a cooperative which will create a stock of budget, low entry koras.

How long does it take to make a kora?

This varies enormously. Minimum period is roughly a little over a month up to 2 months, but this is weather and availability of certain materials depending.

How long will it take for my kora to be made/delivered?

Kora making depends largely on the weather, availability of unusual materials and our whereabouts in the world. As a rough guide we estimate anything from 4-8 weeks though during the winter months this could be considerably longer based on our winter stock.

How can I pay?

By credit or debit card through Paypal (no need to create an account), bank transfer or even cash-in-person if you come to visit.

 

Workshops

I’m an absolute, complete, never-even-held-a-kora-before beginner …. will these workshops be worth it for someone so new to the instrument?

Yes, absolutely yes!

How many teachers do you have for the workshops?

2 or more teachers

How do you manage multiple students of different abilities?

For the scheduled workshops we have 2 or more teachers; after a group warm up session in the morning, students then find a quiet corner to practice and are visited on regular intervals by their teacher. This system works well for beginners to advanced players, each student getting patient and personal time allocated. Read our testimonials here.

What language is the workshop taught in?

They are taught in English, however you will find a variety of languages spoken by guests and English speakers are often out numbered.

I don’t speak much English, will I be able to learn?

Yes, learning the kora can be a very visual experience and language isn’t a necessity. Our teachers have taught students where they shared absolutely no common language.

Do you cater to dietary requirements?

Yes, let us know enough in advance and this won’t be a problem. Actually, catering for vegetarians/vegans proves much easier than non-vegetable eaters!

 

France

When can I come, how long?

Anytime for a two night minimum stay, not just weekends! Check our calendar for dates, though we’re usually here from April – October (excluding several weeks when we return to the UK for festival season)

Do I have to come as part of a group?

No, absolutely not. Most of our non-scheduled workshop guests are in fact individuals, although you’re more than welcome to come as a pair or in a group (up to 5 people)

How can I get there?

All transport details can be found towards the bottom of this page.

 

Kafountine, Senegal

Do I have to come as part of a group?

No, absolutely not. Most of our non-scheduled workshop guests are in fact individuals, although you’re more than welcome to come as a pair or in a group (up to 5 people)

What is a kora holiday?

It’s the space and time provided whilst in beautiful surroundings to relax and learn the kora. We will look after you completely allowing you to play as much or as little kora as you like. In essence, excellent tuition, blissful surroundings and like-minded company in a true kora bubble.

Is Kafountine safe?

Yes, it’s a very relaxed and friendly rural location. Our guests safety is paramount and having a strong network of friends and locals enables us to be aware of all the goings on in the area. We ensure that you are and do feel very safe. Personally, I felt more comfortable letting my teenage daughters wander through Kafountine in the evening,  than in a similar sized town in Britain.

Isn’t there a war/rebellion in the Casamance area?

There was/is a separatist movement which sadly in the past has caused major problems and difficulties for local people. There has been very low level rebel activity for several years, though this occurred much further inland and Kafountine was largely unaffected. Much of the trouble was opportunistic, a means of exploiting the unrest to cause their own trouble – though, unfortunately this is something that happens everywhere.

What do you eat?

Breakfast is normally fresh baguettes bought to us in the morning with a selection of spreads. Sometimes porridge or pancakes and always an in-season fruit juice from our own fruit trees!

Lunch is a traditional Senegalese dish eg. fish, vegetables and rice, eaten traditional West African style, from large communal dishes. Sometimes chicken or other meat is available but fish is the usual fare, very delicious and very fresh!
(Vegetarian option is possible)

Supper is normally a light Western dish – salads, pasta, omelettes etc.

How do I get there?

Fly to Banjul airport, The Gambia and our friend and associate Ansoumane  will collect you and bring you to our place in Kafountine

How much spending money should I bring?

That depends, if you don’t want to spend any money and are happy at the compound, you don’t need much money at all. But for 2 weeks, 100 Euros (65000cfa) should be enough to cover a couple of small presents, the occasional taxi, a few drinks in town.

As a guide 100cfa is a plain baguette, 500cfa to a 1000cfa for a Fanta (fizzy drink) or a small beer. A taxi from the centre of Kafountine costs 2000cfa and there are of course lots of crafts, clothes etc. for gifts available in the town

Do I need vaccinations?

Check with your GP what boosters you may need/want, although legally all you need specifically for coming to us is a Yellow Fever Certificate

– the jab lasts 10 years. Senegal itself is not an endemic area it is because you are going through an endemic area –The Gambia.. We have never been asked for it here and often forget our certificates, but it is an entry requirement

Do I need anti-malarials?

There are very few mosquitoes in Kafountine during the dry season but it is entirely your own decision whether or not to take anti-malarials. Your GPs advice will be to take them. There is a very tiny risk of malaria in the dry season. We personally do not take them. If you do decide to take them, buy them early to get the best price

Do I need a visa?

Currently, there is no visa requirement now for EU citizens – other countries may need one so check on: https://senegal.visahq.com

What are the toilets and showers like?

For guests, we have an English style ‘sit-down toilet’ and also a French style ‘squat toilet’ , both are clean and open to the air so pleasant to use. As there is no refuse collection everything must be burnt, buried or re-used in some way, therefore we do not buy toilet roll as this blocks the waste system. There is always soap and water in the toilet for washing, but if you don’t fancy that that, baby/toilet wipes are useful, but you must bag and bin them, so a bag of nappy sacks is useful.

What’s the wildlife like, is it dangerous?

Huge variety of wildlife, with more bird species in The Gambia and the Casamance than any where else in the world. . There is no big game other than in the reserves far away, the only potentially dangerous animals are snakes which keep themselves well hidden anyway so you’re unlikely to see them. However, monkeys can sometimes be spotted in the tree tops!

Do you have to play the kora to come? – can I bring guests?

You don’t need to play the kora, many guests come just for your usual holiday getaway – to relax and soak up some culture and sun. Guests are welcome too – check out our rates.

Are families welcome?

Families are very welcome, children of all ages have been before and had a wonderful time – a family room can also be arranged.

How long can I stay?

Any time from 1/2 weeks to 20.  The record is 13 consecutive weeks!

How long would you recommend for a 1st visit?

We would suggests 3 weeks ideally, only because guests invariably wish they could stay longer than 2. It’s understandable that with work/family commitments this might be all you can manage and you will of course have a wonderful experience no matter how short a period – it’s just that time seems to blissfully disappear out there.

What else is there to do in the area?

Local guided tours can be arranged of the fishing port, artists village or boat trips among the mangroves and to local islands.

We can also arrange lessons to learn to cook Senegalese specialities, basket weaving, drumming (in town) and other instruments such as the balafon.

There are hoards of exotic local bird and wildlife for avid or amateur watchers.

In town there are a huge array of cloth, clothes, local gifts that are available – have a custom made item made extremely cheaply!

Where can I get CFA?

CFA isn’t available outside of Western Africa,  you need to bring Euros with you which can be exchanged upon arrival but we can change GBP given advance notice.

What is the local currency?

The West African CFA franc (seh-fah)

Is there a beach nearby? How far?

Yes! A beautifully deserted beach just a 20 minute leisurely walk from our site.

What is the local language?

The national languages of Senegal are Wolof and French, but locally Mandinka, Jola, Portuguese créole and Fula are the most commonly spoken.

What do I need to bring with me?

A comprehensive list will be sent to you upon booking but nothing out of the ordinary for travelling.

Do they drink alcohol there?

The majority of people there don’t drink (adding to overall sense of security and relaxed atmosphere) but yes, Kafountine is a fairly liberal town and some drink the local palm wine but most alcohol is available to buy in several bars and in the Mini Marché.

Do I have to speak French?

No, whilst on our compound English is the common language amongst guest and workers. In town, due to the varieties of languages spoken people can easily manage with very basic French.  Although English is increasingly more spoken and many will jump at the chance to practice theirs.

Is there a dress code?

No, you’ll see tourists about town happily wearing shorts and summer clothes etc. However, you’ll likely feel more comfortable in long cotton skirts or trousers.

Do you provide mosquito nets?

Yes, each bed has a large mosquito net which covers it completely. During the dry season however mosquitos are actually quite rare, although the nets will protect you from any other biting insects.

Is it safe for women travelling alone?

Yes, in fact at least half of the customers who’ve been on a Kora Holiday were women travelling alone.

Is your compound secure?

Yes, Kafountine in general is very safe but we are quite far out of the centre, right in the bush. We have staff who live on site, including 2 guardians and us, and all bedrooms come with a key.

Can I bring my laptop/phone and chargers?

Yes, we have solar power which you can use to recharge your batteries – these use British sockets though so remember an adaptor if necessary.

 

Playing the kora

Is it difficult to play?

It’s very easy to make a beautiful sound and many use the kora to make their own music. However it’s extremely difficult to learn the traditional Mande music that the kora evolved with and for – but as with any instrument, lots of practice and determination pay off.

Are there any other benefits to learning the kora?

Endless..

  • The ability to relax whilst also concentrating is essential in kora playing and therefore great as a mindfulness exercise.
  • The unusual way of playing, left and right thumb and fore finger simultaneously, is particularly good for building and maintaining cognitive connections – lots of musical therapists use the kora in their work.
  • Ergonomically, whilst moving your body very little it can be played either standing, sitting or  lying down. It is designed to be able to played for hours on end.

Does it help if you already play another instrument, if so which kind?

Yes and no; Having a musical background will normally help in the sense that you’re ability or skill in listening to music and understanding it will not be a new one.  Having a percussion background may very well  help you with rhythms and melodies whilst being a string musician will probably make no difference. The only real help playing another instrument does give is the knowledge that regular practice and determination is the key. Either way, don’t be put off by having a go – the kora really is for all abilities, all ages and all backgrounds.

Is it necessary to be able to read music?

No, traditionally songs are passed down through family generations, taught and learnt from memory. Much of the traditional mande music was and remains largely un-notated. Those that are classically trained may find it helpful but we don’t teach using western notation.

How long does it take to play well?

How long is a piece of string, or fishing line in this case :) – Like any musical instrument it takes a lot of time and dedication to be able to play well.

Do you use your fingers or nails for playing?

Generally musicians use their fingers but there are some who use their nails so it’s not impossible

How do you hold the kora?

With the bridge facing towards you and the back of the calabash away from you. Pick it up using the two handles,  keeping your back three fingers behind the handles as the support. Your thumb and index rest on the side closest to you.

 

how to hold a kora

 

Delivery, Packaging & Customs

Can I collect my kora in person?

Yes, see our calendar to see where we are.

How do you package the koras?

We have specialist boxes made to protect it in transit, whilst inside we use a mixture of recycled filling, card board and bubble wrap to completely fill it to ensure your kora doesn’t move about.

How much does it cost to have delivered?

As a rough price guide including the specialist packaging we use, plus insured courier delivery within the UK or France costs approximately £80/110€. In the past it has cost in euros:
to Italy 140€, to Finland 215€, to the US 240€ and to Kuwait 370€.

Delivery from collection is 3-5 working days  worldwide.    We will always give you an accurate price for shipping and insurance.  For customers outside of the European Union (EU) please also bear in mind any customs charges (see below).

Do I have to pay any customs?

Outside of the EU,  your country’s Customs department may require you to pay an import charge.   This is completely beyond our control and is normally paid at the time of delivery to the courier, or you may be sent a bill instead. You are responsible for paying this charge and unfortunately we simply cannot include it in our prices or quotes. The amount of customs/tax varies from country to country.

We have very recently discovered the wonderfully useful Import Duty Calculator  by Pitney Bowes.  It is pretty straightforward to use and we will be seeing if we can make it easier to use for our own products, but in the meantime it will certainly help you work out how much tax you can expect to pay.  If you need help, please ask once you have a complete shipping price from us.

Which courier service do you use?

We don’t use one single courier service as we always will search for the cheapest option and charge at cost. Read more in Delivery, Customs and T&Cs