Art & Film

Meet Sona Jobarteh, The First Female Professional Kora Player

Sona Jobarteh began learning to play the Kora at the age of four from her brother Tunde Jegede, and by her mid-teens she became a permanent member of her brother’s internationally acclaimed ‘ACM Ensemble’.

The Kora (21-string African harp) is one of the most important instruments belonging to the Manding people of West Africa (Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau). It belongs exclusively to Griot families with traditional rights, to play the Kora professionally, given only to those born into the Griot family.

As a first female to take up the Kora professionally, Sona has made a name for herself by breaking tradition. Born into a prestigious Gambian Griot family, Sona is a pioneer in an ancient male-dominated kora hereditary tradition “exclusively handed down from father to son”. And besides breaking tradition, her acclaimed gift as a composer, multi-instrumentalist and skillful style of fusing music with social activism as well as her infectiously captivating voice has afforded her a well-deserved rise to international stardom. As an electrifying artist to hit the world stage, she follows in the footsteps sustaining the weighty reputation of notable Kora master Amadu Bansang Jobarteh — her grandfather.

Sona has worked alongside internationally acclaimed artists such as Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté and The BBC Symphony Orchestra. Spreading African culture and her self-evident artistry wide and far, she has headlined major festivals around the world in countries like Brazil, India, South Korea, Ghana, Mexico, Tanzania, Cote D’Ivoire, Lithuania, Poland and Malaysia.  

She’s currently working on her forthcoming album (the first release since her celebrated album Fasiya), a collection of music expected to explore the influences and experiences she’s garnered as well as “challenge both the musical and lyrical boundaries of the Griot tradition whilst still being firmly grounded in the ancient tradition she belongs to”.

Watch her live performance at Mon Ami in Weimar, Germany in 2015. You can follow her by visiting her site here. 

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