Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork with New York City-based musicians, this article observes how the kora, a twenty-one stringed harp from the Mandé region of West Africa, has become integrated into a Black cultural expression in the United States. It highlights the disjunctures between migrant West African kora players and Black musicians and audiences in the United States that result from particular modes of listening. How these conflicts are manifest in the performance context, the author argues, reveals both who and what means, historically, have been authorized to organize a social imaginary around the idea of “Africa” and its traditions.

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