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John Hughes plucks and strums the kora in Shelburne

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Posted on April 19, 2018 |
By Addison Independent



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John Hughes plays notes that cascade off the 22 strings of the kora, a West African harp that he built himself.

Fans of African music, and of good music generally, may want to mark their calendars for this Friday, April 20, when John Hughes will perform at Shelburne Town Hall at 7 p.m. The Brattleboro resident will deliver a concert of kora music, songs and stories that include both elegant and stately pieces from the classical Mande Jeli repertoire and original compositions that mingle disparate cultural influences.

The kora is a thousand-year-old West African harp not often heard in the United States. Its resonating chamber is made from a very large gourd covered with a stretched hide soundboard. It has 22 nylon strings in two separate rows that span four octaves. Hughes himself builds the koras he plays.

Hughes’s signature pieces are rhythmically nuanced, laced with syncopations that cascade off the strings into whirlpools of mesmerizing sound that aim to soothe and up-lift the spirit. His sometimes jazzy, hypnotic grooves cross cultural boundaries to take his audience on an intimate tour of universally musical expressions of joy and hope.

Hughes has studied the music, song and dance of West Africa for well over 25 years, training with numerous master drummers and dancers from Guinea and Mali. Though, as a kora player, John is entirely self-taught, he has received glowing praise from many master kora players from West Africa.

Tickets to Friday’s show are $30 at the door or $25 if you buy them online at brownpapertickets.com/event/3371460. Shelburne Town Hall is at 5372 Shelburne Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., music starts promptly at 7 p.m. and the show will run about an hour and a half.

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