How to Make a Tin Can African Kora Harp + Cigar Box Kora

Discover a wild instrument from Africa and make your own using a tin can!  Then keep scrolling to discover other Cigar Box Nation members who have created cigar box versions, too.

Nicolas Bras is a Youtube star who makes instruments out of junk.  In this tutorial, he re-creates a traditional African kora harp from a big tin can, a wooden stick, classical guitar tuners and strings.  He then creates a fantastic song with it and other homemade instruments.

First, some background on the instrument:  The kora and it's close relative, the kamele n'goni are African harp instruments that have two rows of vertical strings that are played with your thumbs.  The body is typically a large calabash gourd with a goat hide body and neck that passes through the body like a cigar box guitar.

Pictured: A traditional Kora made by Kalachev Arts and Craft.

Here's a video featuring musician, Watcha playing "Djina Bantan" on his traditional kamele n'goni

HOW-TO BUILD TUTORIAL:  Follow along as Nicolas Bras' goes through the steps to build the Tin Can Kora:

Get his full blueprints for the instrument here.  Note:  His measurements are in millimeters.

EXTRA:  Cigar Box Nation members create cigar box koras!

Steve Dahm, a.k.a. Low Budget Luthier created this 16 string cigar box kora back in 2013. 

His bridge sat very high in order to contain two rows of eight strings.  Look at it bending!

Another view of Low Budget Luthier's kora.  His tuners are zither tuning pins.

This cigar box kora was built by Gene Jaimez of Laredo, TX.  He says, "This instrument is a hybrid of the African Kora. It has 15 strings instead of the 21 strings usually found on the African Kora. This instrument is tuned to various pentatonic tunings. The strings are steel or bronze guitar strings instead of nylon. The box is made from poplar wood as is the neck. The tuners are econo guitar tuners with a piezo transducer affixed to the bridge. I fashioned the 15 hole tail piece from angled aluminum."

Have you made your own version of an African instrument?  Post photos and descriptions below!   

Views: 1298

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Man, got strings? That Nicolos makes some kool stuff, you should hear him play the flute! 

Brian, you got that right!  His Youtube channel is one of my favorites lately.


Nicolas is incredibly resourceful. His channel is fascinating!


The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation? How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building BasicsCigar Box Guitar Parts Store

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources


First build

Started by Lark Leazar in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Taffy Evans 16 hours ago. 35 Replies


Started by Mitchell Cutsinger in Performances, How to Play, Lessons, Concerts 17 hours ago. 0 Replies

Rocky Patel mocked up

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Lane Martin 22 hours ago. 1 Reply

Headless Guitar Project - a $100 eBay kit & Gitty pickups

Started by Cigar Box Nation in Feature Articles. Last reply by Poorness Studios on Thursday. 5 Replies

Cigar Box Amp Mods

Started by Cigar Box Nation in Feature Articles. Last reply by RTZGUITARS Sep 17. 14 Replies

Blog Posts

Prototyping with a big ol' wine box

Posted by Ben on September 23, 2021 at 4:00pm 0 Comments

Mr. Bells

Posted by Stephen Cohen on September 4, 2021 at 12:30pm 0 Comments

Bookie's Poor Man's Dobro

Posted by Steve Bookout on July 18, 2021 at 2:04pm 7 Comments

Get your groove on for free

Posted by François on July 13, 2021 at 3:05pm 1 Comment

Latest Activity

Luke Jalbert replied to Luke Jalbert's discussion Building a Cigar Box guitar with no musical parts
41 minutes ago
Doug Thorsvik commented on Poorness Studios's photo

Jewelry Box to Guitar Amp

"Probably next year Kale! The Slingers will be performing live for the first time at the Spokane…"
46 minutes ago
Carl Floyd liked Taffy Evans's discussion The hidden Volume pot, revealed
3 hours ago
Carl Floyd liked Steve Bookout's discussion Double Necked E-lectric Whachamacallit
3 hours ago
Uncle John replied to Steve Bookout's discussion Double Necked E-lectric Whachamacallit
"Hunh.   Nylon 4 and metal 3.   Makes sense.   Different colored necks…"
3 hours ago
Uncle John commented on Steve Bookout's blog post Bookie's Poor Man's Dobro
"Not true!  You build cooler stuff than I do."
3 hours ago
Cigar Box Blues commented on Poorness Studios's video

Jewelry Box Guitar Amp

"sweet tones, I love small speakers they sound so unique!"
7 hours ago
Steve Bookout commented on Steve Bookout's blog post Bookie's Poor Man's Dobro
"John, it's only fantastic because I use you for inspiration!"
11 hours ago
Martin Fisher liked Randy S. Bretz's video
13 hours ago
the anonymous pick commented on CLG's photo
15 hours ago
Uncle John commented on Steve Bookout's blog post Bookie's Poor Man's Dobro
"Steve, that is fantastic!"
16 hours ago
Taffy Evans replied to Lark Leazar's discussion First build
"Hi Lane, thanks for the comment. I've posted a "how to do it" on here. Taff"
16 hours ago


© 2021   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

\uastyle>\ud/** Scrollup **/\ud.scrollup {\ud background: url("") no-repeat scroll 0 0 transparent;\ud bottom: 25px;\ud display: inline !important;\ud height: 40px;\ud opacity: 0.3 !important;\ud position: fixed;\ud right: 30px;\ud text-indent: -9999px;\ud width: 40px;\ud z-index: 999;\ud}\ud.scrollup:hover {\ud opacity:0.99!important;\ud}\ud \uascript type="text/javascript">\ud x$(document).ready(function(){\ud x$(window).scroll(function(){\ud if (x$(this).scrollTop() > 100) {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeIn();\ud } else {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeOut();\ud }\ud });\ud x$('.scrollup').click(function(){\ud x$("html, body").animate({ scrollTop: 0 }, 600);\ud return false;\ud });\ud });\ud \ua!-- End Scroll Up -->