For over two decades David Gilden has been performing music on the majestic twenty-one string, kora, a harp-lute from West Africa. Gilden first heard the kora in 1978 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. At the time, he was studying piano and jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
After graduating from Berklee 1980, Gilden embarked on his kora studies, becoming the first American student of Gambian griots Dembo Konte and Malamini Jobarteh. Over the next 10 years, Gilden transcribed recordings and took lessons with touring African musicians and received help from ethnomusicology professor Roderic Knight of Oberlin College. In 1989, Gilden took his first journey to West Africa to study the kora and interact with local musicians. To date, he has traveled to the region a total of nine times. He has traveled extensively throughout The Gambia. In 1995 on his fifth of nine trips, he traveled to Bamako, Mali, where he lived at the home master guitarist Djelimady Tounkara. During this three-month stay, Gilden studied with kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate, gave a concert ORTM (Malian national television), and honored the first kora player he heard, back in 1978, Batourou Sekou Kouyaté.
Gilden has released several recordings that have been featured on NPR and on college radio stations throughout North America. He has been interviewed for Leo Sarkisian's popular Voice of America program, Music Time in Africa. The Cora Connection web site went on-line after Gilden returned from this Malian musical adventure back in the spring of '95. During the 90s Gilden performed regularly with his world music group, Cora Connection at New England area festivals, clubs and cultural events. Additionally Cora Connection workshops introduced West Africa and its rich musical traditions at area schools and colleges. In 2002 Gilden relocated to Dallas-Ft. Worth Texas area, where his passion for music and his masterful performance on the kora have found a new audience.