From White Bear Enterprises:

© 1996 White Bear Enterprises, All Rights Reserved

Live TV Interview of The Gravikord Duo
Broadcast May 24th, 2010 in Woodstock, NY

The "Whatever Show" #26 Gravikord Duo from Dave Laks on Vimeo.


Sometime during 1973-74 in upstate New York, Bob Grawi was becoming disenchanted with the guitar and enchanted by the harp. The sound and the playing of the guitar had become a twangy nightmare to him while the harp sounded beautifully simple and pure. He had gone so far as to stop by an abandoned Victorian house and take home one of the fallen down fluted Corinthian porch columns which seemed to have just the right height, strength and serendipitous beauty to use as a harp column. He was still looking for a junk piano to salvage some of the soundboard from when several things conspired at once to distract his interest.

First he had a strong long time love of polyrhythms ever since his first experience of hearing simultaneous soloing in Dixieland jazz, and had often enjoyed playing primitive percussive music with friends. He had also recently been having much fun with an African kalimba. This was not a pure African one, but the Hugh Tracy design from South Africa, with two octaves of perfectly diatonically tuned chromed tines. This sweet little instrument struck him very deeply and its African system of alternating tuning seemed a more natural organization of notes that on the guitar, the harp, or the piano. It also seemed to easily create its own non-rational rhythmic world.

Then while at a neighbors home viewing a 16mm U.N. movie featuring the "Ballet African" from Senegal, the camera zoomed in on the hands of an African griot kora player. "Wow," he thought, "that's definitely it! A harp with the tonal structure of a kalimba!" He immediately knew that that's what he had been looking for although he'd never heard of a kora before. He soon found that a friend had a Vanguard record with extensive liner notes and pictures featuring Alijah Bai Konte, a Gambian kora player. It wasn't even the music so much as the structure and sound of the instrument. Everything that was so much fun on the kalimba would immediately be four times as much fun on the kora.

The porch column was soon forgotten. A whole new exotic set of materials was required. He never did find a good kora (rare) or a kora teacher (rarer). So for ten years it was a hobby, making kora like instruments. Many were constructed and the design slowly improved. The first was made with a large bamboo neck, and a Chinese bamboo basket with fiberglass and hide, since large calabash gourds were impossible to find. It actually had an integral kalimba installed on top of the bridge. Later ones were made of aluminum walnut and plastic, then stainless steel and piezo crystals. It was no longer exactly a kora, it had a different bridge, more strings, different tunings, a different playing position, modern materials, needed an amplifier, etc. the music wasn't African, kora players couldn't play it. What was it?

While playing publicly in New York City's Central Park, a businessman in a three piece suit approached and took several close up pictures. This was the impetus for Bob's patenting of the instrument and naming it the Gravikord combining forever his name and the kora into something new.

Together with his wife Pip Klein who also plays flute in the "Gravikord Duo" they formed White Bear Enterprises to help promote the Gravikord and share their music with the world. They have published several recordings and have played many famous venues. Bob has since made several Gravikords for kora players, Jazz guitarists, holistic therapists, gamelan players, street performers, etc. The Gravikord has been featured in several music magazines, in "Gravikords Whirlies & Pyrophones" a book - CD by Ellipsis Arts, In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a show called "Enduring Rhythms" among many others.

"Grawi on the Gravikord" - Quotable Quotes

"We're trying to create a new polyrhythmic harp tradition in America today. How's that for a job description? How many harp pieces do you know? Anyone who has ever touched a harp knows that it's a magical instrument, but so much of its music is just too sweet for my ear. There's a lot more to the harp than arpeggios, and the Gravikord's sound has an edge to it. With it's polyrhythmic African heritage it's really a harp for a bongo player! My music comes from an early love of Dixieland and World Folk."

"I have been an artist and builder for many years but I've found nothing more satisfying than making this musical instrument. Alter it's done it's really just begun. I loved polyrhythmic music and was able to create the Gravikord and make its design as beautiful as the music. Sounding like an electric harp with a built-in bass, the Gravikord has a sweet acoustic quality."

"The roots of this creation spring from Japan and Africa and reached fruition in New York City - the purity of sound of the koto from Japan; and from Africa, the double musical structure of the kora and kalimba. My music, however, must be called American. My performances are mixtures of original and traditional songs, even some Broadway show tunes. I find inspiration in a variety of styles, including jazz, Dixieland, Balinese gamelan, and American folk music. Sometimes I think I am creating a new form of polyrhythmic ragtime."

"We are surrounded by rhythms - within and outside of us they flow over and through us all. I like to play with the rhythms of nature in the music ... a river flowing to the ocean, thunder clapping, or snow falling under a streetlight. I try to capture a small portion of this and mix it up with our culture and let it out musically. l don't play music with a capital "M," but maybe that's why so many people respond. Young and old, classical violinists and rock musicians - even people who tell me they've never been musical - are drawn to my music."

"I'm involved with the Gravikord for life - for better or worse. It doesn't matter to me how successful an enterprise it becomes, it's a part of me. Its magical and mysterious qualities are an end in themselves. Because its structure is so different than most Western instruments, some simple techniques can lead to intricate results. Often times, the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing - but the ears don't care and integrate it all into a musical whole. It's like holding on and letting go at the same time. The more you play, the deeper and more natural becomes your understanding of this. Listen to the Gravikord - it will lead you on. With it more than any other instrument, you can be your own teacher."

"When I first picked up the instrument, there were no teachers. It was like learning to walk and every step took me to a new place. Even now, after many years, when I sit down to play, it's still a mystery, it's still magical."

Short Biographies of the Members of:


Bob Grawi is a graduate of Cornell University with degrees in science and fine arts. His fascination with polyrhythmic music and African instruments inspired him to invent the Gravikord, which he named after himself and the kora. The Gravikord has been featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in a book-CD "Gravikords Whirlies & Pyrophones."Bob has received a "Meet the Composer" grant and the "ASCAP Popular Music Award" and has been interviewed on many radio stations including WNEW-FM and on NPR programs "All Things Considered" and "New Sounds." He also holds several patents on his instruments and other innovative products. His original compositions and folk-based arrangements form the main repertoire of the Gravikord Ensemble and are featured on their indpendent recordings, "Making Waves"-solo Gravikord, "Rising Tide"-ensemble, and "Cherries & Stars"-solo, duo, and ensemble. He still continues to make to order three popluar underground musical instruments; The Signature Series Gravikord, The Signature Series Gravi-kora, and the Whale Bone Bass.
Pip Klein began studying flute in high school and continued her interest in music after earning a degree in communications from The University of Vermont. A songwriter and keyboardist, as well a flautist, she performed in both Santa Barbara, CA and Aspen, CO where she also pursued a publishing career. Moving to New York City in 1984, she met Grawi and co-founded their own music/marketing company,"White Bear Enterprises" and later formed their own publishing company "Take That Music." Her management and musical skills have been an indispensable part of the group's success. Married in 1988, the couple have been performing as a duo and trio in the United States, Canada and Europe.

The Gravikord is a patented invention and a registered trademark of White Bear Enterprises, all rights reserved.

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