The strange and parallel lives of the West African kora and the Welsh harp
(English / Welsh)
By Andy MorganPhotos by Josh Pulman and Andy Morgan
Welsh translation by Catrin Henry Published by Theatr Mwldan and Astar Artes 84 Pages (168 in total including Welsh version)
AVAILABLE FROM: Mwldan Theatr Shop
“…Morgan is a storyteller, whose poetic ear means he has the gift of using words with the same inventive skill that a musician applies to the notes on a scale…The ultimate test of a book about music is whether it leaves you with an unquenchable desire to hear the sounds being described…Morgan’s joyful book passed the test with flying colours…” Nigel Williamson, Songlines Magazine (5/5 Stars).
The West African kora and the Welsh harp are ancient instruments that have come to symbolise entire peoples and cultures. They come from separate worlds that seem to have very little to do with each other, and yet, their stories are full of strange and striking parallels.
In Finding The One: The strange and parallel lives of the West African Kora and the Welsh Harp, Andy Morgan recounts the respective origins of the kora and the harp in the warrior culture of the old Manding empire of West Africa and the medieval kingdoms of Wales. In a pacey readable style, he examines how both instruments were intimately tied to ancient traditions of bards and powerful warrior lords, how these bards fulfilled the role of today’s journalists and histories, how the kora and the harp represented both temporal and spiritual power and how they fell from grace due to the ravages of history, only to be reborn in a renaissance of cultural pride.
The book was written to accompany the release of Clychau Dibon, the highly praised new album by Welsh harpist Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita. It tells the fascinating story of friendship, dreams and coup d’états that lead to their collaboration and delves into their personal histories, which are full of tragedy, comedy and an acute sense of place. It also includes a chapter about how the kora and Welsh harp are made, and the lore and legends that surround each instrument.
Andy Morgan has contributed articles about music and culture to The Guardian, Songlines, fRoots and many other publications. He managed the Touareg rockers Tinariwen before giving up the music business to concentrate on writing full time in 2010. His first book Music, Culture & Conflict in Mali was published by Freemuse earlier this year.
Finding The One: The strange and parallel lives of the West African Kora and the Welsh Harp is on sale at Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita gigs. It is also on sale from the following outlets:
Read some extracts from the book:
For more information or preview copies please contact:Tamsin Davies – Marketing Manager, Theatr Mwldan: Tel: 01239 623925 firstname.lastname@example.org
2 Short Extracts:
“It is said that the kora is so emblematic of the Manding culture of West Africa that it ‘speaks Mandinka’. It’s the king of Mandé instruments. Talk of royalty is apt. Originally, and still to a large extent, the kora is an instrument of power, not just spiritual power, but hard-edged temporal power. The role of the griot and his kora is not just to praise powerful men, but to represent them, to chronicle their adventures and manly exploits, to preserve the memory of their lineages all the way back to their original and most illustrious forefathers.”
“In those fractious and uncertain times, the bard and his harp were a warrior lord’s passport to immortality, his psychological armour going into battle, his jewel at feasts in halls and long-houses and his mouthpiece in times of pomp or political tension. In fact, so essential were the bards to post-Roman Welsh society that it was deemed necessary to regulate their art. That idea might seem strange to us as we try and imagine the government of today issuing laws dictating how an indie band from Manchester should behave; but less strange if we remember that the bard was all at once the news service, commentator and truth-teller of his day; its ‘media’, in other words. He was also the mouthpiece of power and the guardian of a precious oral heritage, which had no written texts or reference books to which it could anchor itself for posterity.”