Good quality, easy to tune koras are expensive and we want to ensure that our experience and skills are also used to make an affordable kora. So we have started Project Kora 200, which will be formed as a co-operative business, with members from Senegal, the UK and France.
The project’s aim is to make a low-cost kora that is a consistent size and quality, and as such can be sold through re-sellers such as music shops, via kora players, and direct to schools and colleges. To achieve such a kora we use smaller, thicker calabashes which do not require a reinforcing ring, but therefore do not have the same depth and fullness of sound. The neck is made using hardwood that is available at the time, rather than specified. The difference is in the time taken selecting and preparing the materials, as well as a more production line approach. The instrument produced is still of far higher quality than many others we have come across, but the lower price means it can be enjoyed by beginners and those with lower incomes, as well as appealing to music educators with tight budgets.
Being able to involve our colleague Aliou Gassama in Senegal once more is important to us – see Our History. Aliou and his apprentices are well placed to produce large quantities of koras if they have good quality materials and a market. This is our role – to ensure he has both. Initially only the kora body will be made in Senegal by Aliou, but ultimately we would like the whole instrument manufactured in Senegal, but there are challenges, such as supplies and shipping that will take time to resolve.
We also want to help ensure that the kora does not share the same fate as the the djembe – many of which are now mass produced in Asia.
Why Kora 200? Because it has been designed to fit in a box that is no more than 200 cm total height, width and depth – making it much more affordable to ship.
This project is in its infancy but we will keep everyone informed – subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.