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The Kora Band
$15 general, $13 members/seniors, $10 students Call 206-443-4221 for reservations.

Kora BandThe art of playing the kora, a 21-string harp that originated with the Mandinka people of Western Africa and is made out of a gourd, has been passed down for generations amongst the Jeli, musicians who act as historians, teachers, and philosophers in countries such as The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal and Burkina Faso. Today, the instrument has gained a greater degree of attention around the world, mainly due to the extensive touring done by Jeli such as Mali’s Toumani Diabaté. Kane Mathis, who plays the kora in Portland-based jazz pianist Andrew Oliver’s Kora Band, alongside trumpeter Chad McCullough, bassist Brady Millard-Kish, and drummer Mark DiFlorio, could perhaps be considered a Jeli in a new, international sense of the term. The Kora Band performs originals and arrangements of traditional and modern West African tunes.

As the instrument’s reputation has spread to different lands it is no surprise that non-Africans have taken up the task of using it for communicating to their native countries (Mathis is far from being the first to do so, in the United States or elsewhere). The kora is by nature a very agile instrument; its flexible touch is practically made for grafting onto unexplored musical regions.

The Kora Band puts its namesake in an entirely new context that highlights the instrument’s character in a way that hasn’t been done previously, providing energetic, charged rhythms and melodies for Mathis to fly over. An idea that could have turned out as a gimmick instead sounds like a meaningful dialogue between forms of music that come from vastly different cultures. The Kora Band’s sound is really made up of three parts: there are both the American and African folk forms, but there is also the original style that is born out of their synthesis.

-Nathan Bluford
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