Kora Course


The kora is a pleasant-sounding, versatile, and fascinating string instrument from West Africa, originating from the regions of present-day Gambia, Southern Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau. Kora playing is a rapidly growing hobby in Western countries. Sommelo is organizing a kora course for the second time.

Teaching takes place in small groups using traditional methods, without the use of sheet music. There are no level requirements for the course – you can join without prior experience, but there’s also plenty of challenge for those who have been playing for many years. The most important thing is to learn to play beautiful music together! The instructors are Cheick Cissokho, Dembo Jobarteh, and Gergely Várkonyi. The languages of instruction are Finnish and English.

Cheick Cissokho, one of the instructors, is a descendant of the Senegambian musician family rooted in Finland. The male members of the family are trained from childhood in the intricacies of professional kora playing, and this fine tradition has continued robustly for centuries. In Finland, Cheick performs with various ensembles and teaches kora playing in private hobby groups, workshops, and as a part-time lecturer at institutions like the Sibelius Academy.

Dembo Jobarteh, another main instructor, grew up to become a master kora player in one of the most renowned musician families in Brikama, Gambia. Dembo has performed and taught kora playing at festivals and music courses not only in West Africa but also in Germany, Switzerland, and France. This is his first trip to Finland. Dembo is also a well-known instrument maker.

The third instructor is Gergely Várkonyi, who has been practicing kora playing for over a decade. His main teachers have been Adam and Josh Doughty (UK), Soundjoulou Cissoko (Guinea), and Pa Bobo Jobarteh (Gambia). Gergely has worked as a kora instructor as part of The Kora Workshop team in France and at the WOMAD festival in England. He organized Sommelo’s first kora course in 2022, gave a lecture on the topic at the festival, and performed alongside Cheick Cissokho.

Note: Inquire about renting a kora for the duration of the course:

Sommelo’s Kora Course is organized with the support of the Kainuu Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.


Download timetable  here


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