Kora and Pipa

A Concert of Kora/Pipa Duo: Strings from West Africa and China [CANCELED]

Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 8:00pm
Crowell Concert Hall

$15 general public; $5 senior citizens, Wesleyan students/faculty/staff/alumni, non-Wesleyan students and youth under 18

PLEASE NOTE: This concert has been canceled. We apologize for any inconveniences.

Gao Hong (pipa - Chinese lute) and Kadialy Kouyaté (Senegalese kora - 21-string harp, and voice) perform as a pipa and kora duo in their world premiere concert at Wesleyan. They play traditional music from their roots and introduce the audience to the special techniques available on each instrument. The duo also plays improvisations based on each other’s folk songs or modes to let the audience experience the innovative process of turning traditional music into one-of-a-kind fusion improvisations. Their collaboration creates a new form of world music that melds styles and sensibilities from two continents. They write, “We will use our hearts to blend our musical styles together to show the audience that people from all walks of life and different cultures can unify and create something beautiful together.”

Presented by Wesleyan University’s Music Department and co-sponsored by African Studies, College of East Asian Studies, Dean’s Office, and Fries Center for Global Studies.

Listen to some tracks from their newly-released album Terri Kunda.



Gao Hong graduated from Beijing’s elite Central Conservatory of Music. Since coming to the U.S., she has performed at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Smithsonian, and at festivals in Paris, Caen, Milan, and Perth. She has presented concerti for the pipa with the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Heidelberg Philharmonic, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, China National Traditional Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, and Hawaii Symphony, among others. She was the first Chinese musician to play the National Anthem at an NBA basketball game when she did so on pipa for the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. Gao has received numerous top awards and honors in China and the U.S. In 2005, she became the first traditional musician to be awarded a prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship, and in 2019 she became the only musician in any genre to win five McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians. As a Sally Award winner, Gao Hong was honored at the Ordway Center for her commitment to the arts. She is the author of the first pipa method book written in English that was published and distributed worldwide by Hal Leonard. Two of Gao's most recent recordings were awarded gold medals by the Global Music Awards in the Best Album and Best Instrumentals categories. One was with her late teacher, Lin Shicheng, and the other with her Gao Hong and Issam Rafea Duo. The duo was also chosen out of over 3,000 entries by indie star Phoebe Bridgers to appear on NPR’s Tiny Desk Top Shelf Contest #2 episode. As a composer, Gao has received commissions from the Minnesota Orchestra, American Composers Forum, Minnesota Sinfonia, Kenwood Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Jerome Foundation, Zeitgeist, Ragamala Dance Theater, Theater Mu, IFTPA, Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, The Cedar, SEMAC, and TPT-PBS. In 2022, Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul proclaimed April 3, 2022 to be “Gao Hong Day in the City of St. Paul” in honor of her milestone concert at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts celebrating her “50 Years of Making Music with Friends.” Several pieces from this concert were featured on Performance Today hosted by Fred Child. Gao teaches at Carleton College where she is director of the Carleton Chinese Music Ensemble and Global Music Ensemble. She is also Guest Professor at the Central Conservatory of Music, China Conservatory of Music, and Tianjin Conservatory of Music. She is a Board Member for the American Composers Forum and Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, and is a Recording Academy Voting Member for the Grammy Awards and an Advisor to the Board for the Academy’s Chicago Chapter.

Born into the great line of Kouyaté griot in Southern Senegal, Kadialy Kouyaté’s kora playing and singing style, both as a soloist and in different ensembles, have been appreciated in many prestigious venues including the Royal Festival Hall, the 02 Arena, the National Theatre, the Royal Albert Hall, and Clarence House. Kouyaté has also played venues and festivals across the world, touring to Europe, Australia, and North America. Since his arrival in the U.K., Kouyaté has played a significant part in enriching the London musical scene with his griot legacy. Kouyaté has taught the kora at SOAS, University of London for the last decade, and he has also been involved in countless musical projects both as a collaborator and a session musician. He toured with the RSC’s production of Julius Caesar, and other theater projects include working at the London Globe Theatre on a show called We the People, as well as touring three children's theater projects with the renowned Oily Cart. In 2015, he took part in the remaking of the TV series Roots as a musician, cultural consultant, and dialect coach. Kouyaté has released several albums, and makes regular radio and television appearances. With his band, Sound Archive, Kadialy Kouyaté draws on his heritage and its traditional songs to create his own mesmerizing compositions, leading his fantastic band into the West African groove. A reviewer from Rhythm Passport (World Music/Global Beats) wrote of the 2016 album Na Kitabo (My Book) “lovely kora playing and powerful vocals sung in Kadialy’s soft, melodious voice” and “it’s great to hear Kadialy Kouyaté firmly back in his own Mandinka territory. This album Na Kitabo (My Book) by the kora player and singer is rooted in his own Sengalese tradition and has all the hallmarks of a classic in the making. The themes of the songs counteract humanity’s current obsession with negativity in the world and focus instead on happiness.” His latest album Nemo (meaning “blessings” in the West African language Mandinka) was released in April 2020 and has won rave reviews from the press. Nemo was recently selected Top of The World in the July 2020 issue of Songlines magazine. Songlines reviews have commented on “Kadialy’s strong deep voice that impresses” and “admirable skill and precision.”