Ludovico Failla

composer - kora player

kora playing


With the project Imaginary Traditions I present traditional and original pieces for solo kora, the 22-24 strings west-African lute-harp.

I started playing kora in 2021 and studied with several traditional players among which Sanjally Jobarteh, Jalikebba Kuyateh, Jalimansa Haruna Kuyateh, Alieu Saho. Since then I’ve been transcribing and studying a variety of modern and historical recordings from Toumani Diabate, Ballake Sissoko, Tatadindin Jobarteh, Sekou Batourou Kuyat√©, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, Jali Nyama Suso, Alagi MBye, among others.

with Jali Hammey Saho in Brikama, Gambia

While digging deeper into this beautiful oral tradition I kept finding personal music interpretations, variations, new synthesis of various versions and playing styles. I soon realized that these experiences form exactly the mechanism that allows an oral traditions to grow, evolve and transform over time. Eventually I started to organize my insights into whole new arrangements of these traditional pieces.

Building my own instrument has also been proven to be a source of great inspiration. I gradually opted for strings much thicker and tense, which on one side can limit agility but on the other results in a rounder sound with a greater dynamic range and a timbre closer to classical guitar. This definitely informed my original compositions, which seem to merge early western music to early west-African to from a sort of “imaginary” traditional repertoire.


Kora and piano, peak-developments of two very different civilizations, are very far from each other in many regards.

Quite vs loud, finger picked vs mechanically hammered, African vs European, industrial and standardized vs built organically from pumpkin and cow skin. Yet, we are discovering, they can also share a lot.

With pianist Hakim Azmi we explore their meeting point, composing original pieces and reinventing traditional ones, often including my singing, which is deeply influenced by classical Indian music.