HARP-KORA This instrument is a double-sided harp that is strung and played like a Kora. There are 10 strings on the right side and 11 on the left side. Note: www.oddusic.com (an excellent site) features my Harp Kora in it's "Gallery". They also include a sound sample of this instrument.Click here to access Harp Kora article on oddmusic.com.
Click here to access
David Gilden's "Cora Connection" webpage
This is Kora master, Prince Cissokho playing my Harp-Kora in Dakar - November 2011, Senegal
(This particular instrument (my prototype) is now owned by Brother Boris, head Kora builder
at Senegal's Keur Moussa Monastery)
It's construction is very like that of an "elongated" bowed
psaltery. I got the idea for this instrument after absentmindedly
plucking the strings of my bowed psaltery & noticing just how rich
and loud it sounded! This Harp-kora measures 31 & 1/4"" tall. Just
about nothing is at all critical. All measurements (except perhaps
string spacing) can be off by a few percent without any
degradation in sound or playability.
Two handles, like on an African Kora, provide a very solid way of
holding, when playing the instrument.
Undoubtedly, it'd be nice to have an actual African Kora, but
these are not generally available in this country. Even to make
one requires some hard-to-get materials. This Harp-kora provides a
very pleasant and workable alternative.
The Harp-kora's tone is decidedly resonant and beautiful, with
good volume as well. While it resembles the tone of a Kora, the
metal strings and wooden soundbox give it a bit different,
harp-like voice that is in no way objectionable. The overall tone
and volume is constant "high-to-low". The thinnish strings are
quite easy on the finger and the thing stays in tune nicely, even
after only a week of "settling".
It only took me a few days of spare time to build & get up and
I made the two sides (soundboards) from the 1/8" sides of an old
door (an excellent source of such wood). The simple frame is made
from rock maple. I would never use any other wood than rock maple,
as I have had a number of bad experiences with using other woods
with zither-pin tuners (oak even slips -- rock maple never does).
Elderly instruments sells zither-pins, which I've used for tuners
on many instruments, for 22 cents each (2001 price) & I recommend
these pins. A tuning wrench is required for tuning. I also used
these same zither pins (slightly modified) for "hitch-pins" at
each string's other ends. Any thick nail (etc) could be used for
this purpose, but I really like using zither-pins, if for no other
reason that their heigth can be easiliy adjusted up and down. They
can be modified for this purpose by hacksawing an anagled slot in
the top that receives the string and holds it in place.
As for strings --- on the right side (and shortest three strings
on the left side too) I used.013" hardened steel wire. I obtained
this by unwinding the eight lengths of hard steel wires inside of
5/16" clear, green, vinyl-coated clothesline sold at all K-marts
and Wal-marts for about three dollars per 50' roll. This wire
makes first rate music wire. For the longest 8 strings on the left
side, I used. 020" (#8) music wire left over from a hammered
dulcimer project. Elderly Instruments in East Lansing, Michigan
( http://www.elderly.com ) sells this (& many other gauge) wire.
I thought I would need a thicker string for the low C note, but am
quite happy with the. 020".
I am very pleased with the way that this thing turned out.
Notes on playing:
The Kora is a sort of "stringed Kalimba" in that to play a scale,
one has to alternate between sides:
. do <--- Start of scale
Once you get the hang of it, this alternating is quite satisfying.
The Kora encompasses two octaves, plus 6 extra notes (2 notes
higher & 4 lower). Here's the string configuration showing the
lowest full octave.
One octave --> (do') C--| |--C <-- Two octaves
above Middle C (la) A--| |--A above Middle C
(fa) F--| |--F etc.
(re) D--| |--D
B--| |--B (ti)
A--| |--G (so)
G--| |--E (mi)
One octave --> C--| |--C (do) <-- Middle C
below Middle C |___| (start of scale)
Unlike the Kalimba, on the Kora there is a somewhat odd "offset" ie:
the first note of the scale starts on the lowest string on the right
side, but the second note of the scale starts way up on the 5th string
on the left side. Takes some getting used to.
Harald Loquenz has a really fantastic computer shareware program that
has many actual Kora tunes completely transcribed in an easy to
understand tablature system. Drag the cursor from left to right over
the tablature and the notes are made audible --- at the same time, an
on-screen chart shows you where to put your fingers & thumbs for that
particular note. You can also make it so the tune plays itself, at
whatever speed desired -- all the while showing which notes are being
played and which strings to pluck with what fingers! Great program.
The text is all in German, but it only takes a few minutes to
learn the few German commands. So far removed from anyone who can
teach you to play the Kora, Harald's program is very useful.
With "drive" and patience, his program could undoubtedly teach you
how to play the instrument. Harald's program (downloadable on the
internet) is a fully functional but basic version containing only
a few tunes, however his full program can be purchased from him.
HERE ARE SOME PHOTOS SHOWING CONSTRUCTION OF THE "PROTOTYPE":
Dennis Havlena - W8MI
Cheboygan, northern Michigan
Key words: build make diy kora west africa gambia senegal construct homemade home made
Click here to access David Gilden's "Cora Connection" webpage