The only instrument used on Listen All is a kora. A 21 string harp lute, made by The Gambia's most famous korabuilder Alieu Suso, an uncle of Dembo Jobarteh.
The body of the kora is made from a calabash, that has been cut in half. On the open site cowhide is placed.
Kora's come in different sizes and the number of strings varies between 19 and 24. A traditional kora has 21 strings, made of fishingline in varying thickness. The strings are plucked by the thumb and forefinger of each hand. The other fingers hold the two vertical hand posts. The player may tap the rhythm on the wooden hand posts or the skin of the kora. You can hear this on Saiku .
The kora is tuned by moving the leather rings on the hardwood neck. There are four kinds of heptatonic tuning systems and the tonal range covers two and a half octaves.
Once, upon a beautiful day, a man and his dog went to the bush to hunt. After a few hours the hunter got tired and looked for a place to rest. He noticed a big tree. Leaning to it was a kora. The man sat down. He watched and watched. "I've never seen anything like this", he said to himself. After a while he reached forward and touched the strings. The sound was very sweet. If nobody comes for it I will take it home, he thought. He waited a few more hours and then took the kora.
On his way back to the village he met a stranger. The hunter did not know it was a devil. So the hunter asked this man: "Do you know what this is? Is it yours?" The devil answered: "Yes, this is a kora. The name means if you are tired, it can help you." He showed the hunter how to play and then said: "Take it home and I will show you many things."
When the hunter entered the village everybody came to look at the kora. Nobody had seen anything like this before. The hunter started to play and people said: "This music is very nice to listen to." Afterwards, whenever the hunter went to sleep he saw in his dreams the man he met on the road. This devil taught him many things. How to play kora, how to sing, how to write his own songs. And how to make a new kora.
On Gambia Banko there are a few songs where someone sits beside Dembo and uses a iron nail to tap the rhythm on the back of the calabash. You can hear this on Yahya Jammeh, a song about the ancestors of The Gambia's president.
On the cd Gambia Banko there are four tracks on which drums accompany the kora. The small drum is called kutirinino. It's one of a threesome that make up the Mandinka chosane. The big drum in the picture is a Djembe. It originates from Mali. Listen to the drums on Gambia Banko.