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The kora, an instrument that combines features of the harp and lute, is constructed from a hide-covered calabash gourd resonator and a long hardwood neck. Historically its twenty-one strings were made from thin strips of finely twisted antelope hide. Since the early 1950s, nylon fishing line has been used instead because it resists changes in weather, does not easily break, and yields a good sound. Professional jeliw, or griots, accompany spoken epic narratives, genealogical recitations, and praise songs with the kora, which they hold upright and play either standing or seated.

Kora, Calabash, hide, wood, copper, vegetable fiber

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© Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY