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N’Faly Kouyate says BA responsible for broken kora

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N'Faly Kouyate in concertImage copyright
Michael Palmer

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N’Faly Kouyate’s kora was made to his design in France

A musician says his specially made instrument was badly damaged after he was forced to put it in a plane’s hold.

N’Faly Kouyate says his electric kora, also known as an African harp, was designed so that it could be taken as hand luggage and stored in overhead lockers on flights.

He says the instrument can no longer be played – and he wants British Airways to pay for its repair or replacement.

BA says it is investigating what happened.

Kouyate was flying home to Brussels with BA from London’s Heathrow Airport on 18 August after performing with his band, the Afro Celt Sound System, in Dorset.

He said that staff at the check-in desk had agreed the wooden instrument was hand luggage, and he was given a label for it confirming this.

The instrument measures about 80cm x 20cm x 20cm (31in x 8in x 8in) and weighs about 6kg (13lb).

But Kouyate said that when he got to the departure gate, he was told by a member of staff there that the instrument had to go in the hold.

He said he repeatedly explained how fragile the 22-string instrument was – but to no avail.

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N’Faly Kouyate

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Kouyate says the kora’s bridge was among the parts that were broken

“I told her I had been allowed to take it as hand luggage two days earlier on the BA flight from Brussels to London.

“I said that it was the first time since I’d got the instrument about 18 months ago that an airline had refused to allow me to take it as hand luggage, but she said the law had changed.

“She said that if I refused to hand it over, I could be prevented from boarding the flight,” Kouyate told the BBC.

He said he eventually agreed because he had to travel two days later to his native Guinea, in West Africa, where his parents’ graves were being moved to make way for a new road.

Kouyate comes from a line of kora players and is widely acknowledged as a master of the instrument.

He said he was told his instrument would be handled with care as hold luggage and corresponding labels were put on its soft case.

But he said that when he collected the kora at Brussels airport, its bridge and saddle were broken and the body had been damaged.

Kouyate’s colleague from the Afro Celt Sound System, Simon Emmerson said they were awaiting the opinion of the instrument’s maker in France, but they believed it could not be repaired. He said it had cost about £4,500.

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Michael Palmer

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Kouyate also wants an apology for his treatment

The Musicians’ Union said: “We regularly hear from musicians who have encountered problems at the check-in desk or when carrying instruments onto a plane. Airline staff often seem to apply their own discretion, regardless of an airline’s official policy.”

BA said: “Our colleagues take great care with our customers’ luggage, so we’re very sorry to hear about this. We are investigating this as a matter of urgency, and our customer relations team will be in contact with Mr Kouyate to help resolve the issue.”



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Brian May says he was ‘very near death’ after a heart attack

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The star said his “small” heart attack revealed more serious underlying problems

Queen guitarist Brian May has revealed he “could have died” after being rushed to hospital following a heart attack.

The 72-year-old said he was “shocked” to discover he needed surgery after what he described as a “small” heart attack earlier this month.

The star’s heart scare came a few days after a separate medical issue, when he thought he had ripped his glutes during a gardening accident.

He explained his latest health problem in a video posted to Instagram.

“I thought I was a very healthy guy,” he said.

“But I turned out to have three arteries that were congested and in danger of blocking the supply of blood to my heart.”

May was subsequently fitted with three stents – tiny tubes that can hold open blocked arteries – and says he is back in full health.

“I walked out with a heart that’s very strong now, so I think I’m in good shape for some time to come.”

The star made headlines earlier this month when he posted that he had torn a muscle in his gluteus maximus during a gardening accident.

The injury left him in “relentless pain,” which he later discovered was due to another injury.

“I told you I had a ripped muscle,” he said in the seven-minute video he posted titled “Sheer Heart Attack” – a reference to the title of Queen’s third album, released in 1974.

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“That was the way I was diagnosed and we thought it was like a bizarre gardening accident.

“I didn’t realise that was amusing, really. I kind of forgot anything to do with the bum people find amusing… but anyway, it turned out to be not really the case.

“Now a week later I’m still in agony. I mean real agony. I wanted to jump at some points. I could not believe the pain. And people were saying, ‘That’s not like a ripped muscle, you don’t get that amount of pain,’ so eventually I had another MRI.

‘But this time I had one of the lower spine and, sure enough, what did we discover but I had a compressed sciatic nerve, quite severely compressed, and that’s why I had the feeling that someone was putting a screwdriver in my back the whole time. It was excruciating.

“So finally we started treating the thing for what it was. I’d been putting the ice packs in the wrong place for about 10 days.

Chest pains

‘That’s one side of the story, and I’m a lot better now… But the rest of the story is a little more bizarre and a bit more shocking.

“I thought I was a very healthy guy. Everyone says, ‘You’ve got a great blood pressure, you’ve got a great heart rate’. And I keep fit, I bike, good diet, not too much fat.

“Anyway, I had – in the middle of the whole saga of the painful backside – I had a small heart attack.

“It’s not something that did me any harm. It was about 40 minutes of pain in the chest and tightness, and that feeling in the arms and sweating.”

Having realised he was having a heart attack, he called his doctor, who drove him to hospital for tests that exposed his underlying health problems.

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PA Media

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Queen were due to be on tour with Adam Lambert this year before coronavirus put live music on hold

Given the choice between open heart surgery and having stents fitted, the musician chose the latter, and said the operation was remarkably straightforward.

The star added that his experience should be a lesson to other people in their “autumn years”.

“What seems to be a very healthy heart may not be, and I would get it checked if I were you,” he said.

“I was actually very near death [but] I didn’t die. I came out and I would have been full of beans if it hadn’t been for the leg.”

May’s health scare came shortly after Queen released a new version of We Are The Champions to raise money for the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 fund.

The single was renamed You Are The Champions as a tribute to medical staff, and was recorded under lockdown.

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Coronavirus: Singer Niamh McAllister says ‘keep your passion alive’ in lockdown

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A young singer and publican has urged people to keep their “passion alive” to protect their mental health in lockdown, after dealing with the loss of her two sources of income.

Niamh McAllister said she had only just been able to pick up her guitar again after feeling “quite low” with her gigs drying up and her pub and music venue – the Banham Barrel in Norfolk – having to shut.

The 21-year-old, who has struggled with her mental health since she was a young teenager, said she was worried about the impact the coronavirus crisis was having on people in similar situations.

She said: “Try to remember that you’re not in this alone. Just try to find new hobbies or things that distract you. Just something to interest you and keep your passion alive.”



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Lord Hall: People have turned to BBC ‘in their droves’ during pandemic

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Media captionTony Hall on the future of the BBC and the role the corporation has played during the Covid-19 crisis

People have “turned to the BBC in their droves” in recent weeks, according to the BBC’s director general.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Tony Hall said 94% of the UK accessed the BBC for “information, entertainment or education” during the pandemic.

He said he “took his hat off” to staff who had created “excellent” content, even though 92% of the workforce were now working from home.

The BBC could lose £125m in revenue because of coronavirus, he added.

Lord Hall also said he recognised the need for a “big debate” about the future of the BBC and the way it is funded.

The director general, who is set to leave his role in the summer, said younger audiences had been coming back to the BBC during the lockdown, with shows such as Normal People becoming huge hits.

The corporation said that 94% of the British public used the BBC in the third week of March when social distancing began in the UK – with 86% of younger people between the ages of 16-34 also accessing BBC content.

Lord Hall also credited this success to its “biggest ever educational programme”, as well the launch of Culture in Quarantine – an arts and culture service which Lord Hall says keeps “the arts alive in people’s homes and support the arts sector during challenging times”.

He was pressed on plans to bring back BBC Three as a regular TV channel, four years after it was taken off air and moved online to save costs.

Lord Hall said the initial plans had been a “fantastic, creative success” and showed “the importance of developing our iPlayer, developing our sounds and making sure that our new services are in tip top position for young audiences to come to”.

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Normal People has attracted record audiences for BBC Three on iPlayer

However, he acknowledged that the broadcaster could potentially lose £125m as a result of coronavirus, meaning it would have to spend “wisely” in future.

The BBC is facing financial pressure after being forced to delay the end of the free TV licence scheme for all over-75s.

It also had to postpone plans to cut 450 jobs, and said there was uncertainty around commercial revenues.

Lord Hall said that he hopes in future, there will be a “big debate” about how the BBC should be funded post 2027, when the current charter comes to an end.

He said: “The question is, what’s the best way of funding that universally so that everybody, this great democratic idea, gets something we can all share.

“I hope even when I’ve left I can take part in that debate and we should look at the easiest way to pay, learn from what happens in other countries, are there fairer ways to pay, but the underpinning for all that is the idea of a BBC which is providing something for everyone.”

It comes after a public consultation was launched by the government on whether failure to pay for a TV licence should stop being a criminal offence, with the BBC warning it would cost the corporation more than £1bn over five years.



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