EVEN TODAY the music of the Kora is passed on traditionally through the hereditary family system. All the kora-players in SoundJunction studied under the same master of the kora, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh – including Maya Jobarteh, who is Amadu’s granddaughter.
In the early stages it is often someone from the younger generation that is given the task of giving the initial training, less senior than Amadu Bansang. However, because it is under the watch of a master, the acknowledgement is always given to the eldest living representative.
Wali Cham Jobarteh talks about his experiences of learning the kora.
The tradition works on the principle of apprenticeship and works as a hereditary legacy: it assumes the student will already be familiar with the music and repertoire of traditional pieces long before taking on the task of playing the instrument.
This makes it difficult once the learning process is removed from its original cultural context and it is for this reason that to learn the kora properly, the music must be regularly experienced in this original context, in West Africa. So to learn the kora in the UK, for example, without travelling to West Africa to experience life there, would be an inadequate training, as far as the tradition is concerned.