Liturgical music as a place of emancipation for African nuns?

Kora and emancipation in secular and liturgical music

The founders of the Keur Moussa monastery in Senegal came from Solesmes monastery in France, which since its new foundation by Dom Guéranger has distinguished itself which the tradition of Gregorian chant. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Benedictine monks endeavoured to adapt the music to African conditions and introduced the Kora as a liturgical instrument. After many years of experimentation, the West African Griots’ instrument, which was played primarily by men from certain families of musicians, became, in the hands of the monks of Keur Moussa, an instrument played internationally by men and women and used for liturgical music throughout West Africa. The Mandingos’ instrument has been transformed into a chromatic scale instrument, produced in Keur Moussa and sold worldwide.

From the monastery of Keur Moussa in Senegal, we will follow the musical networks, which lead us, among others, to the monasteries of Burkina Faso, Benin and France, to find answers to our research questions: the feminisation of the liturgy as a secondary effect of acculturation, the exercise of the kora and Gregorian chant by women, as well as the cooperation or competition between monks and nuns concerning the commercialisation of liturgical music.

During the 2nd research phase we would like to go further in our questioning as well as explore the process of feminisation thoroughly: To what extent has the opening of the Kora playing for women by the Keur Moussa monastery also contributed to making this instrument more accessible to secular women, or conversely has the recent emergence of female Kora players in the Global North influenced nuns in Africa?

Photo © K. Langewiesche 2018,