Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Transporting Sound of the Kora Harp

My visit to the Plainfield Public Library Tuesday took me back to another era, the time of the griot,

It still exists in some places, that tradition of story-telling with music, an aural/oral history far removed from tweets and likes. Between songs on the Kora harp, performer Sean Gaskell described going to West Africa to study with a griot, living in a large communal household and learning songs centuries old that told of warriors and leaders.

It reminded me of my Irish ancestors' life in the days before planes and trains and social media, when traveling bards brought news and history to villagers through music and poetry.

The griot is a revered figure in African culture, still invoked today. This biographical note on Queen Mother Mary Carter Smith describes a re-awakening of understanding the importance of the griot.

Before attending the Kora harp concert, I wondered a bit about that new issue, cultural appropriation. But Sean Gaskell's obvious respect for the Kora tradition and his acceptance as a live-in student reflected more of a mutual celebration than an appropriation.

Maybe that's the trade-off in sharing cultures - we are no longer confined to our villages, but can have the best of world music no matter where we are or where we came from. Mickey Hart's Planet Drum is one such effort, Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble are another and last night Sean Gaskell brought the enchanting sound of the Kora harp to Plainfield.

Thanks to Plainfield Public Library for this wonderful event and I hope Sean Gaskell will be back again soon.



  1. I filmed his last song, it can be found at
    We have so many wonderful events in Plainfield .sorry about the shaking movement, close your eyes, listen and relax to this masterpiece #GoPlainfield

  2. It was a wonderful (although poorly attended) performance. I wish more people in the town had shown an interest in such an incredible instrument, learning about it and the culture....Sean was really really good...I bought his CD to send to a friend. A lovely evening...thank you to the library and many thanks to Sean.