Roderic Knight, director

The Oberlin Mandinka Ensemble was formed in 1977. It is a study group dedicated to learning to play the kora, a 21-string bridge harp, the balo, a xylophone, the bolon, a 4-string harp, and to sing in the Mandinka language. The repertoire is from the Mandinka people of The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea, and Mali, and is known as jaliyaa. In Mande culture, of which the Mandinka are the westernmost branch, the musicians, known by the term jali, are professionals who inherit their trade. They perform songs about historical and contemporary figures in Mande culture.

The Oberlin ensemble consists of eight koras, two balos, and other instruments. In 2006 the ensemble performed at the end of the fall semester with two guests from Africa: Alhaji Papa Susso, well-known Gambian kora player, and Tapa Damba, renowned singer from Mali. Below are photos from the concert and rehearsals.


The Oberlin Mandinka Ensemble, Roderic Knight at left, Papa Susso, center, at the concert, Dec. 9, 2006.

Tapa Damba singing with the ensemble

Papa Susso rehearsing with the ensemble.

Aaron Bobis, Laura Dykes, Daniel Grodnitzky, Diana Shomstein

Kirsten Lamb, Sam Harmet, Maya Walton, Tera Levin

Aaron, Laura, Dan, Diana, Kirsten, Sam, Maya, Tera

Knight rehearsing with the ensemble

Rod Knight, Tapa Damba, and Papa Susso with some members of the ensemble

Rod Knight and Tapa Damba

Here are some photos from the 2002 ensemble.

Here are photos from the 2001 ensemble.