Kane Mathis

Kane Mathis

 Seattle, Washington, USA

Lively acoustic and electric music featuring the 21-string west African harp, kora. Kane Mathis makes regular trips to The Gambia to study the Kora with a family of heriditary musicians and performs internationally with acoustic and electric versions of his band. Educational programs also available.


Kane Mathis – Musical Biography

West African Music Study
(Kora – 21-string west African harp)

Growing up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Kane was exposed to music at a young age by his father, a pianist, who encouraged him to play piano as part of a well-rounded education. In grade school Kane switched to guitar and formed his own groups and in high school played in jazz and blues bands backing protégées of Pinetop Perkins and up and coming musicians around the city and suburbs. Kane was, at that stage, awarded by audition many great opportunities to play in youth Jazz orchestras around the region like IMEA Jazz band where he held the guitar spot in the top band. Kane’s was also in the middle of a great musical education scene when, in his second year of high school, the Jazz director led the band to a victory as the best high school jazz band in the Midwest. This was around the time Kane discovered the music of Africa via interest in South American music.

At 16 years old, after hearing many African records from all over the continent Kane felt a strong interest in pursuing West African music and did so by incorporating the styles into his solo acoustic guitar playing. Kane was then accepted into the Lawrence University Conservatory of music for classical and jazz guitar despite below average grades in other areas of education. Just before the first year of his conservatory education Kane procured a 21-string West African kora harp from an American kora player, David Gilden. Kane entered the conservatory now strongly interested in Mandinka traditional music.

After Kane’s first year of Conservatory education and almost 5 years of listening almost exclusively to music of West Africa, Kane got the opportunity to travel to the birthplace of Kora, The Gambia, to study with one of the countries most famous musical families, Jobarteh (Diabate) Kunda. There, in the same compound that had produced three generations of the country’s most famous musicians, Kane would start his new musical education.

Surprisingly, the father of the compound, Malamini Jobarteh, oversaw Kane’s education himself. Kane would take 4 to 6 hours of lessons a day with Malamini Jobarteh on his first three trips, causing a bit of a stir in the compound and community as people were not used to seeing Malanini devote so much time to a student. This study resulted in diplomas and certificates of recognition from Malamini Jobarteh, The Gambian minister of culture, and the President of the Gambia.

After making some field recordings with Members of the Jobarteh family Kane began to get regular radio play in The Gambia starting in 1999. Subsequent trips have found Kane headlining concerts organized by the American ambassador to The Gambia, performing with his Gambian trio on Gambia national television, performing at the first annual Gambian heritage festival, and sitting in with the Jobarteh family band Salaam band founded by Malamini’s son Tata Dindin Jobarteh.


Kane Mathis and Rusty Knorr - Kora and Percussion
Kane Mathis - Bantam Ba Kouyate
Kane Mathis - 2005
The Sahel Band (featuring Kane Mathis)

Set List

up to three hours of traditional and electric songs. All traditional songs are public domain.