Sona Jobarteh: Who is this woman contesting the exclusivity of Kora to men?

Sona Jobarteh is a composer, singer and instrumentalist of Gambian and English origins. She is the first female professional kora player.

With a Gambian father and an English mother, Sona was born in 1983 in London, England, to a family of griots, one of the main lineages of West Africa.

Professional player of Kora, she is the first woman member of this family to play in public, this instrument. She came to change the tradition regarding the practice of Kora which was exclusively passed from father to son. The kora is an important part of the Mandingo culture in West Africa, and playing it is only for griots.

Granddaughter of the griot of his lineage, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and cousin of Toumani Diabaté, it is very small that she was initiated to practice the Kora. At the age of 4, his older brother started teaching him the practice of this instrument. As a teenager she developed a greater desire to learn to play Kora.

Course of the Koranist Sona Jobarteh

Sona Jobarteh studied at the Royal College of Music. There she played cello, piano and harpsichord. She later studied composition at the Purcell School of Music. In parallel she has participated in several orchestral formations, including the River of Sound with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie, or the Royal Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia.

After graduating from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Sona is an artist and teacher of Kora. It applies to make known the repertoire and history of the Kora to new generations. She works with her father who founded a music school in The Gambia, named after her grandfather. His first personal album is Afro-Acoustic Soul, released in 2008 with titles that do not leave indifferent.

Sona Jobarteh

In 2009, she made her debut as a film music composer when she was commissioned to create the soundtrack for a documentary about Africa: Motherland. This documentary film is written and directed by Owen Alik Shahada. In 2014, she opened a music school and there she taught the game of traditional instruments of Mandingo culture (including kora, balafon, and djembe).

Jobarteh collaborated on stage with many musicians like Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabate, Kasse Mady Diabaté and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She contributes as a composer and musician to two albums of her brother Tunde Jegede, Malian Royal Court Music, and Lamentations, then composes two pieces, which can also be found on the album Trance Planet Vol. 5.

Sona Jobarteh has made a fusion between contemporary music and African culture to create her artistic repertoire. She also plays guitar.

Sona Jobarteh in Jarabi

Who says Kora says man but Sona Jobarteh comes to prove that women too can play this instrument that brings calm and serenity but also soothes the hearts. This koraïst shows that women can be in the same place as men. She represents “the swinging woman”.

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