Here is some info on the instruments Kevin performs with.
The Kora (as it is known to the Mandinka people of West Africa, more recently being; Senegal, Mali, The Gambia, Guinees Bissau and Konakri) is a 21 stringed harp,
made from a semi-spherical hollow gourd with a skin stretched across it, a 4ft post which goes through the gourd, likening it to a kind of oversized banjo.
But the 21 strings (usually fishing line of various thicknesses) pass from the post to the sides of a bridge standing vertically on the skin,11 strings on the left, and 10 on the right.
The instrument is played vertically and normally with the thumb and index finger of both hands. The three remaining fingers on each hand support the Kora by holding on to 2 smaller posts to the left and right of the main post.
The families who still play this instrument today traditionally would be playing for the royal families and folk of the Mandinka or Manding kingdom, which in its heyday was a very large chunk of West Africa. Musicians to the court of the King or Queen were like historians and journalists, often being sent out to inform, notify or woo folk to the wishes, hopes and fears of the Kings and rulers.
Most of today's generation of Kora players from the same families, (because of the way that the music is handed down and taught) still carry the tradition and still play the basis of the music as it was played up to 200 years ago.
The Balafon is present in almost all of black Africa, and exists in various models.
The tuning of the keys is accomplished by thinning the center (underside) to lower the pitch and by thinning the ends (underside) to raise the pitch.
The linear change in stave length has to do with setting the keys on the frame so that they rest on their nodal points (about 20% in from the ends).
So the keys are cut to fit on the frame, which has a linear taper, then they are tuned to pitch by shaving off wood from either the center or ends. The gourds that are placed on the underside of the keys are attached with antelope skin, and the actual keys are made from native grown mahogony.
The wooden keys are set on a frame which has gourds underneath them to give the sound a most unique resonance. There is a combination of small and large gourds to accomplish this amazing texture of sound. The first use of the Balafon dates back to 800AD, and probably a lot earlier.
The Djembe (or jembe) is on the verge of achieving world status as a percussion instrument, rivaled in popularity perhaps only by the conga and steel pan.
It first made an impact outside West Africa in the 1950s due to the world tours of Les Ballets Africains led by the Guinean Fodeba Keita.
In the few decades succeeding this initial exposure the djembe was known internationally only to a small coterie of musicians and devotees of African music and dance.
In the U.S. interest in the djembe centered around Ladji Camara, a member of Les Ballets Africains in the 1950s, who since the 1960s has trained a generation of American players.
Worldwide, a mere handful of LP recordings were released up to the mid-1980s, most containing just a few selections of djembe playing.