Lesson 1: Learning “Kelefaba”

Aim: How does an instrument accompany a melody?

Summary: Students will sing “Kelefaba,” and learn how a simple, two-note pattern on the kora provides the foundation for the song.

Materials: Musical Explorers CD or online audio

Standards: GA: ESGMK-2.CR.1; ESGMK-2.RE.1; ESGMK-2.RE.2; ESGMK-2.CN.2
SC: MGK-2.2, MGK-2.3, MGK-2.5, MGK-2.6

Vocabulary: accompaniment, jeli, kora, melody


“Kelefaba” is the first song that jelis generally learn on the kora, because of its simple, two-note accompaniment pattern. The lyrics also reflect one of the key roles of a jeli, which is to be a peacemaker within the community.

Explore the Lyrics in “Kelefaba”

  • Listen to “Kelefaba,” Track 10.
  • Learn the words using “Kelefaba” pronunciation, Track 11, and sing along to “Kelefaba” chorus, Track 12,  starting with the refrain and adding the rest of the melody if your students are ready.
  • The melody is the part of the song that you can sing or hum.
  • Note that the melody changes each time Yacouba repeats it. Below is the opening of the song.

  • Read and discuss the lyrics to “Kelefaba.”
    • What is this song about? Have you ever had a fight with anyone? If so, how did it make you feel? Were you able to make up? If yes, how did you do it?
    • What’s the difference between fighting and disagreeing?
    • When we have a conflict with someone, how can we make things better? How can we bring about peace?
  • Using the box below, explain that a jeli is a peacemaker, a very special role in Malian culture.
    • Who are the peacemakers in your school, your family, and your community?

Yacouba is a jeli (pronounced JAY lee), a person who comes from an ancient line of musicians and storytellers. Jelis have been the keepers of the history and fables of Mali for centuries. Highly respected within their communities, jelis are responsible for making the stories of the past relevant to contemporary audiences. The kora is one of the traditional instruments that jelis play to accompany their songs.

Explore the Two-Note Accompaniment Pattern in “Kelefaba”

  • Using SG21, explore the kora with your students.
  • Listen together to “Kelefaba” simple accompaniment, Track 13.
    • How many different notes do you hear? How would you describe them? For example, are the pitches close together or far apart? Do they move quickly or slowly?
    • Notice that the accompaniment establishes a steady beat, or pulse.
  • Ask your students to move around the room as they listen to the two-note accompaniment and notice their gait.
    • Are you walking, skipping, or running?
  • Listen together to “Kelefaba” full accompaniment, Track 14,  in which the space between the two notes is filled in.
    • What is different about this accompaniment?
  • Ask your students to move around the room to the full accompaniment.
    • How are the added notes reflected in your movement?
  • Note that the accompaniment is a repeated pattern that stays the same, providing a structure or foundation for the melody as it changes and moves.
  • Listen again to “Kelefaba,” Track 10,  moving and singing through the verses. During the kora solos, have your students stay in place and do their own expressive movement.

Creative Extension: Compose Your Own Peacemaking Song 

This activity will guide you through writing a peacemaking song.

  • Explain that a jeli is a peacemaker in Malian society, and “Kelefaba” is a song that promotes peace and helps people to resolve conflicts.
  • Brainstorm the message of your class peacemaking song.
    • What would you like the message of your song to be?
  • Work together to create a short phrase (similar to “fighting will lead to no good”) that conveys your message.
    • What is a phrase that you can use to encourage people to live in harmony with each other?
  • Using classroom instruments or voices, create a two-note accompaniment for your song.
    • What pattern of notes gives you a feeling of peace and togetherness? Will you use notes that are close together or far apart? Will they move quickly or slowly, evenly or unevenly?
  • Going back to your phrase, clap out the rhythm of the words together, counting the number of syllables.
  • Now create a melody that uses the rhythm of the words. The melody can use the two notes of the accompaniment, plus any notes surrounding those two notes.
    • What kind of melody gives you a feeling of peace and togetherness? Does the melody move one step at a time, or leap up or down? Is it smooth or jagged, soft or loud?
  • To perform the song, divide the class in half. One group can play or sing the accompaniment while the other half sings the melody.

Explore the Kora

  • On SG21, your students will have an opportunity to explore the kora, the instrument that Yacouba plays.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words accompaniment, jeli, kora, and melody to the Musical Word Wall.


PDF Downloads

SG21 ↓ Download File


Musical Explorers Audio Tracks


Go to Lesson 2: Learning “Wawanko”