Kora Konnection
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Kora Konnection

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States | SELF
Band World Jazz


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Kora performance brings sound of West African traditions to UNO"

Morikeba Kouyate of Senegal performed a 22-string kora Tuesday at the University of New Orleans as part of the music department's 'Meet the Artist' series.

The kora, made of a gourd and wood, originates from the West African countries of Gambia, Mali and Senegal. The ancient instrument is part of Africa's spiritual musical tradition.

- Times-Picayune Staff

"Kora Konnection: French Quarter Focus"

In a city known for jazz and blues, it’s not common to find a group led by a 21-string African harp.

Kora Konnection combines West African music with acoustic jazz in a city that is less accustomed to world music than you might think. Musical director and Senegal native Morikeba Kouyate is known throughout West Africa for his performances and ability to skillfully play the Kora. The group also includes Guinea native Thierno Dioubate (djembe, balafon), Tim Green (saxophone), James Singleton (bass) and Jeff Klein (djun djun).

“We’ve combined acoustic jazz instruments with traditional West African instruments,” Klein says. “These are instruments that are not traditionally ever together. There may be one other African styled jazz group in the world, so it’s fairly unique.”

The kora, played by musical director Morikeba Kouyate, is a 21-string African harp. Kouyate is the only person in Louisiana who plays the kora, Klein says, and there are only about 10 of them in the United States. The djun djun is a West African drum, the djembe is an African hand drum and the balafon is a West African wooden keyed percussion idiophone similar to the xylophone.

The group plans to share their historical beat and culture with those unfamiliar with it at French Quarter Festival where fans can “expect the unexpected” from the musical ensemble.

“We don’t say, ‘We’re going to play these 10 songs for this show,’” Klein says. “We play on the spirit and vibration of the crowd. We play what we’re feeling and what we’re feeling from the crowd that day.”

The group hopes to gather strong support from the city since it is such a rare commodity in New Orleans. Although there are currently no world music venues in the city, Kora Konnection hopes to change that “If we can say this is now part of New Orleans culture, when people think of New Orleans, I hope they’ll think of us,” Klein says. - Offbeat Magazine

"Two flavors of fusion at French Quarter Festival"

...Kora Konnection spun delightful musical yarns led by two griot masters, Morikeba Kouyate on the kora and Thierno Dioubate on balafon and djembe drums. Kouyate, originally from Senegal, worked the full range of the kora, the 21-string African harp, switching back and forth between sweet-and-sour noodling and percussive chord-plucking. He and Dioubate grounded the improv in their own musical connection, sharing it with an appreciative crowd. - Molly Reid, The Times-Picayune
- Nola.com


Kora Konnection:
Live at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2010
Morikeba Kouyate:
Songs of Senegal (1997)
Thierno Dioubate-In Honor of our Mother
Jeff "Papafrog" Klein:
African Suite (2008)



Kora Konnection is an exotic and melodic blend of West African mandinka music and jazz improvisation. The band’s special sound comes from a harmonious interweaving of traditional African Griot compositions with modern jazz. The group is led by two griots (oral historians and poet bards): Morikeba Kouyate, a kora (African harp) master from Senegal, and Thierno Dioubate, a balafon and djembe master from Guinea. Kora Konnection is also blessed to have two superb jazz musicians from New Orleans, Tim Green on saxophone and Vince Mitchell on electric bass. The band’s architect and African percussionist, Jeff “Papafrog” Klein is the heartbeat of the ensemble. Kora Konnection’s unique sound spans the cultures of two continents and seven centuries in its mission to bring American Jazz back home to its African roots.

Kora Konnection also has an educational objective, and will coordinate cross cultural demonstrations and classes at local schools upon invitation. Children are truly fascinated by these musicians and as a result at several festivals, the band has appeared at a main stage and also given a secondary performance at a children’s venue. Kora Konnection also often partners with local African Dance groups and drumming circles for other activities during its visits.

Kora Konnection began with a meeting between Morikeba Kouyate and Jeff Klein in the fall of 2008 after Morikeba’s performance at Xavier University in New Orleans. The two musicians became instant friends and shared a mutual interest in developing a novel cross-cultural project featuring African Music and American Jazz. To that end, Jeff enticed another friend, Thierno Dioubate, who was then living in Minneapolis to come back to New Orleans. Thierno was familiar with the music as his brother Karamba had recorded with Morikeba. Soon enough, Thierno and Morikeba were living with Jeff, and the core of the band was in place. With the addition of New Orlean’s own Tim Green, the group included an accomplished jazz musician who was devoted to the concept and it added the final member, world music devotee Vince Mitchell later in the year. The ensemble’s first gig was at the 2009 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and things have been growing ever since. In 2010, Kora Konnection became of the very few groups to be invited to all three Major Louisiana music festivals: French Quarter Festival, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Festival Louisiane.

Morikeba Kouyate is known throughout West Africa for his electrifying performances and virtuosity within the kora tradition. The kora is a 21-string instrument from the West African countries of The Gambia, Senegal, and Mali. It is an ancient instrument, developed over 700 years ago, which is part of Africa’s rich, spiritual music tradition. Morikeba was given his own radio program in Dakar, Senegal which aired throughout Senegal and several other African countries and made numerous appearances on Senegalese television. Morikeba Kouyate has played before African royalty and the presidents of several countries, including Senegal and The Gambia. Kouyate is a recipient of a 2002 Illinois Arts Council grant for the Master-Apprentice Program; a 2003-2005 Illinois Arts Council Artstour artist; and a recipient of a 2003 City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs Community Arts Assistance Program (CAAP) grant. Additionally, Morikeba has given workshops around the country and has taught and performed at Harvard, DePaul, Northwestern, Xavier, and many other universities. Morikeba has released two CDs, “Songs of Senegal,” and “M'Fake,” recorded with some of the best West African musicians living in the United States. Morikeba has performed and recorded with many great African ensembles including Chicago Afrobeat Orchestra. He recently finished recording two new CDs which will be released shortly.

Thierno Dioubate has performed with the great Toumani Diabate of Mali, as well as Sekouba Bambino of Guinea, and his brother Karamba Dioubate. Thierno and Karamba have recorded a masterful CD together entitled, “Songs for Our Father.” Thierno started performing professionally at age 17. He learned the balafon from his griot father, the great Aladji Suroon Dioubate, and performed in Guinea with Sole de Afrique. Thierno Dioubate is a master on both the balafon and the djembe, a rare talent which adds a very special musical dialogue to the ensemble. Thierno is also an excellent African chef, and keeps the band well fed.

New Orleans resident and master of the tenor saxophone, Tim Green has been active in the city’s jazz scene for many years. He has played with such renowned musicians as Peter Gabriel; Bruce Hornsby; The Indigo Girls; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Phish and George Porter. Green also served as the President of the Louisiana Jazz Federation, which helps to promote jazz awareness throughout the state.

World music specialist, Vince Mitchell has performed and studied Indonesian