Program: Sona Jobarteh

Sona Jobarteh Band
Saturday, April 22, 2023
Somerville Theatre

Sona Jobarteh – Kora 

Godfrey Sehindemi (Yomi) – Drums 

Eric Appapoulay – Guitar 

Andi Mclean – Bass Guitar 

Mamadou Sarr – Percussion


Sona Jobarteh was born into one of the five principal griot families in West Africa, part of a hereditary tradition that dates back over 700 years to the Mali Empire. Jobarteh is the first female within this ancient tradition to master the kora, a 21-string instrument from the Mandeng regions of West Africa. Originally introduced to the kora at the age of four by her elder brother Tunde Jegede, Jobarteh went on to study intensively under her father, Sanjally Jobarteh, from the age of 17, breaking an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that had been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries. In her recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl that showcased Jobarteh as a trailblazing musician and educator, the artist states how breaking convention as the first female kora master “is a very central and important adaptation that tradition must take in order to be relevant to our new society.”  

As a lifelong musician, Jobarteh earned a scholarship to the prestigious Purcell School for Young Musicians and then the Royal College of Music in the United Kingdom, where she studied the cello, piano, and harpsichord as well as composition and scoring.  For the past seven years, Sona Jobarteh has reached new heights, delivering live performances and speaking engagements around the world. Before the pandemic, she Zoomed 52 performances with 12 sellouts during 2019. After the worst of the pandemic, she had 72 shows in 2022. She has toured the United States, including the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, as well as Europe, China, Africa, India, and Australia. Jobarteh has headlined sold-out concerts at the Barbican in London; at the Kölner Philharmonie in Cologne, Germany; and at La Seine Musicale in Paris. In 2010 Jobarteh was commissioned to compose her first film score for the multiple-award-winning film Motherland, and in 2022 she was commissioned to write the opening and closing sequence music for the Hollywood blockbuster Beast, starring Idris Elba.  Through her music and social activism, Jobarteh has gained international media attention, with featured coverage by BBC News, the New York Times, The Guardian, and NPR, among others. She has lectured and held residencies at universities and colleges in Africa and across the United States and Europe.  

In addition to her work in music, Jobarteh founded The Gambia Academy, a groundbreaking institution for children aged eight to 18, dedicated to reforming the African education system. The Academy teaches a pioneering new academic curriculum that centers uniquely on African core values, traditions, and perspectives. Through her music and African-centered education system, Jobarteh strives to give African culture prominence and relevance in a world where she feels it has been mostly viewed as inferior. Jobarteh’s goal is for the Academy to champion a new curriculum model to be replicated in institutions across the country and subsequently throughout Africa.  Jobarteh’s work at her pioneering Academy has brought her to the attention of the United Nations, and she has been delivering speeches around the world on educational reform, urban development planning, and female entrepreneurship on diplomatic stages for the UN, the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Forum, and UNICEF. Her work and Academy have received high-level recognition and support from leaders around the world, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ghanaian King Asantehene Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, Kenyan President William Ruto, Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sisoco Embalo, and Great Britain’s King Charles III. Her most recent release, Badinyaa Kumoo, is a musical manifesto expressing her vision of empowering women, children, artists, and African societies to effect positive change. The album has garnered well over 6 million streams on Spotify and over 23 million views on YouTube. Jobarteh’s music combines the traditional sound of her Gambian heritage with the more modern elements of jazz, blues, R&B, and soul. The album showcases Jobarteh’s skills as an innovative composer and mutli-instrumentalist, featuring her performances on the kora, guitar, piano, cello, percussion, and bass. The album includes guest appearances by renowned artists like Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, Malian kora master Ballaké Sissoko, and American saxophonist Kirk Whalum. 


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