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The Malinké (also known as Mandingo or Mandinka) are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa with an estimated population of eleven million. They are the descendants of the Empire of Mali, which rose to power under the rule of the great King Sundiata Keita. The Malinké in turn belong to West Africa's largest ethno-linguistic group, the Mandé, who account for more than twenty million people (including the Dyula, Bozo, Bissa and Bambara), from Senegal to Chad.

Most Malinké live in family-related compounds in traditional rural villages. Malinké villages are fairly autonomous and self-ruled, being led by a chief and group of elders. Malinké live in an oral society. Learning is traditionally done through stories, songs and proverbs. The Malinké have a rich oral history that is passed down through griots. This passing down of oral history through music has made music one of the most distinctive traits of the Malinké. They have long been known for their drumming and also for their unique musical instrument, the kora. The kora is a twenty-one-stringed guitar-like instrument made out of a halved, dried, hollowed-out gourd covered with cow or goat skin. The strings are made of fishing line. It is played to accompany a griot's singing or simply on its own. famous musicians include Toumani Diabaté and Salif Keita.

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