Spring 2022

Sona Jobarteh smiles with her kora instrument

From the Gambia: Sona Jobarteh

March 7 – 12, 2022

“Sona Jobarteh is Africa’s first female griot kora virtuoso, and also a fine singer and composer, blending traditional music, blues and Afropop to impressive effect” ~ Robin Denselow, The Guardian

Preserving her musical past Sona Jobarteh innovates to support a more humanitarian future

The spirit of Sona Jobarteh’s musical work stands on the mighty shoulders of The West African Griot Tradition; she is a living archive of the Gambian people. With one ear on the family’s historic reputation, one on the all-important future legacy and her heart in both places, she is preparing a place today for the next generation. Her singing and Kora playing while fronting her band, spring directly from this tradition. The extent of her recognition today is evidenced by more than 17w million watchers on YouTube and considerable numbers on other digital platforms. All this despite singing in her native languages and keeping to her own path within the music industry.

Sona Jobarteh’s Live performances and speaking engagements zoomed to 52 performances with 12 sell outs during 2019 - she completed 15 dates in USA from the Hollywood Bowl in LA to Symphony Space in NYC; she added WOMAD Australia and N Zealand, Macau China. Sona has increased her audiences in London to sell out 2 shows in Kings Place also in Cologne Philharmonie, when playing Paris for the first time it sold out 8 weeks ahead of time. These band performances are under-pinned by her skills as a composer arising from early days at London’s RCM and Purcell School of Music. She scored the film Motherland in 2010 and 2019 saw the first performance on the South Bank in London of “Innovation through Preservation Episode 1”- a PRS commission which was lauded by The Observer as uniting West African sounds and Western Classical …”to exuberant and poetic effect.” Further Episodes are expected in 2021.

Sona’s dedication to spreading powerful humanitarian messages through her songs and her stage performances makes her much more than a musician; she is active in social change and leads by her own example. Sona singlehandedly set up The Gambia Academy, a pioneering institution dedicated to achieving educational reform across the continent of Africa. This Academy is the first of its kind to deliver a mainstream academic curriculum at a high level, whilst also bringing the culture, traditions and history that belong to its students, to the front and centre of their everyday education. These efforts have gained her invitations to deliver speeches at high profile events around the world – including summits for the UN, the World Trade Organization and UNICEF.

See Sona in action: