Earlier this year, I was playing around with my Kora in Tomora tuning - a popular way of tuning the Kora in Mali. I wasn't playing anything particular, just messing around really and getting used to the tuning. My wife, Anna, came into the room and said it sounding a bit like the Donnie Darko theme tune, which we had watched a few days beforehand. I had a listen on YouTube and realised she meant Mad World by Gary Jules. To be honest it wasn't anything like what I'd been playing but it happened to be in exactly the same key (F) as my Kora, and I was almost immediately able to play along to the intro notes. That rarely happens - many of the traditional songs are pitched differently, and any attempts to play non-Kora music usually just results in a while spent tuning strings only to find certain key notes are not really available. Not the case with Mad World. I could instantly tell it was meant to be. Anna challenged me to learn it whilst she went out for the evening. A few hours later, I had barely left my music room, but I had worked out a basic arrangement that worked nicely.
Fast forward a few months and on rainy October afternoon, I decided it was time to make a video of my Mad World cover version. When I posted it later that day I had a feeling people would like it, but I was totally unprepared for what was to come. Fans of Donnie Darko across the world started sharing it and leaving lovely comments, many of them fascinated by the instrument. It's nearing a million views on Facebook, and still going strong!