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Griot Kora Concert by Karamo Cissokho

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

On November 26, 2022, an afternoon concert by Karamo Cissokho, a kora player of the Manding Griot, was held in Hayama, famously known for the Hayama Marina, the first Japanese Yacht club in Japan, with a view of Mount Fuji. The concert was organized by the Amamoto & Shiraishi Africulture Centre, based on its mission "Enhance Humanity through Art". Thanks to the owner of Cadenza Corporation, where the concert took place, the event was realized.

Manding Griot Music

The Manding are mainly the Mande people of West Africa, and the Griot is a "historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician" under the hereditary system. Historically, Griot existed before the Mali Empire (1226-1670). Griot's vast knowledge was valued by the kings, and served as their counsel. It is said that the knowledge owned by a single griot could rival that of a library. The kora has a mysterious origin: a story handed down the generations tells us it was created by a god and a chosen man. The instrument was originally made of a calabash with animal tendons for 21 strings. The player and the instrument are spiritually connected and during the performance, the kora sometimes guide the player. Karamo was born in Senegal as the 67th generation Kora Griot of Manding, and has traveled around the world to share the "voice of Manding". He is now living in Japan. Click here to enjoy the traditional kora griot music.

Voice of Manding Concert Program

"This time of life, going through too many difficulties such as wars, health, economy, I know it is not easy. So as being a Griot, I play and sing with actuality." (by Karmao from the program)

1. "Kaira" (Peace) 2. "Zaman" (Present)

3. "Sanou" (Gold) 4. "Dunia" (World)

5. "Malouma" (Shame) 6. "Diarabi" (Love)

7. "Manding" (Manding)

Each song had a message written by Karamo. For example, for "Dunia," he wrote:

"Why is there so much fighting and killing happening at the same time when people on the other side of the world are having difficulties for water, food, and medical treatment. I, myself, prefer handing bread to people than holding a gun."

Kora Griot

Since the time when the Mandinka led by Sunjata Keita carved out the Mali Empire in the early 13th century, through to the colonization in the early 19th century, followed by the independence, the Griot has consistently spoken for its times, from the Sunjata epic to the Negritude movement. When Senegal became independent in 1960, the first president Leopold Saint-Gaulle, a literary figure of the Negritude movement, wrote the lyrics to Senegal's national anthem, "Play the kora, beat the balafon." Like the kora, the balafon griot exists under the hereditary system. One cannot imagine the vast repertories handed down for centuries. Here's an amazing story told by Karamo about the origin of the kora.

A long time ago (probably around the 12th century), a man traveled to an island in the river and met a god there. The god ordered the man to get animal tendons and gourds, which the man did. God and the man created Kora. Other humans that went to the island never returned. I am told that this very man who created kora was from the Cissokho family.

Karamo and his kora; Courtesy K. Cissokho


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