Kora kana is a new band playing ancient string music from West Africa, borrowing heavily from griot traditions, rural blues, and mountain music.
Band leader Tyler Richart initially travelled to West Africa to study percussion music with the master djembe player, Famoudou Konate, in 2002. After several weeks of intense study and practice, and then being asked by his teacher to find a more quiet hobby to appease the neighbors, Tyler took up lessons on the 21 string West African harp, the kora.
After learning the basic parts to a couple of songs from his first teacher, Sidiki Yayo, Tyler returned to the states and prepared for his next voyage, a six month trip the the heartland of the kora, The Gambia. Tyler then spent six months during the winter of 2002-2003 studying kora and singing in Brikama, The Gambia, with the family of kora master, Malamini Jobarteh.
A couple of years after his return to the US, Tyler spied a banjo hanging on the wall of a friend, and realized the banjo was a less civilized relative of the kora. Weeks later, his mother called to tell him that she had found one of these primitive drum-guitars at a garage sale, and was buying it for him. Tyler took up a feverish study of the instrument before recognizing it's inherent limitations and moving on to the guitar and mandolin. In addition, Tyler started to try to sing like the self proclaimed King of Bluegrass, Jimmy Martin, and therefore won over many friends in the bluegrass and mountain music community. One of those friends, Cort Armstrong, had been steeped in the mountain blues styles of the Piedmont region, and wasgreatly influenced by the Reverend Gary Davis.
Tyler and Cort became fast friends and started playing and singing together. One late night on the porch, after a fair amount of imbibing, Tyler put away his mandolin and brought out his kora, and an old friend of Cort's, Sean Divine, got out his harmonica. Cort tuned up his resophonic guitar, and the seeds of kora kana were planted. Over the next two years, Tyler would occasionally bring out the kora and show Cort and Sean a traditional song or two. In January of 2011, the final piece of band was added. Kia Armstrong added the upright bass and a badly needed touch of class to the band of haggard musicians. The group started working on arrangements, utilizing the vocal talents of three men (who are all fantastic singers in their own right), and blending together the sublime vocal harmonies that kora kana has come to be known for.
Kora kana is a real treat for their audiences, blending Americana sensibilities and ancient Manding string music. Tyler sings with a strong emotive voice, tells amusing anecdotes about his travels, and a presents a healthy heaping of the cultural context and meanings of the songs of West Africa. Seeing this band play is a one of a kind experience.
Empty Sea Studios
6300 Phinney Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103