Program: Sona Jobarteh Band

March 12, 2022
Somerville Theatre

Sona Jobarteh: Kora, Guitar, Lead Vocals
Andrew McLean: Bass, Vocals
Mouhamadou Sarr: Calabash, Congas, Vocals
Westley Joseph: Drums, Vocals
Eric Appapoulay: Guitar, Vocals  
Sidiki Jobarteh: Balafon, Percussion, Vocals

“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 

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. "Preserving her heritage is Ms. Jobarteh’s passion” says New York Times Aina Khan, making her " a guardian of seven centuries of tradition." 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 20 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 totaled 52 performances with 12 sell outs during prepandemic 2019 - she completed 15 dates in the USA from the Hollywood Bowl in LA to Symphony Space in NYC; she added WOMAD Australia and New Zealand and Macau China. Sona sold out 2 shows in Kings Place in London and the Cologne Philharmonie when playing Paris for the first 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. According to Sona, Africa faces the crucial and urgent challenge of addressing its education systems. Children who are fortunate enough to be able to attend school spend most of their waking hours in school, however in most cases the environment, culture, approach and curriculum within these schools are invariably oriented around a post-colonial value system and subsequently a foreign perspective. 

Sona singlehandedly set up The Gambia Academy, a pioneering institution dedicated to achieving educational reform across the continent of Africa. The Gambia Academy is the first of its kind to deliver a mainstream academic curriculum at a high level, while also bringing the culture, traditions and history that belong to its students, to the front and center 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.


A West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician. The griot is a repository of oral tradition and is often seen as a leader due to his or her position as an advisor to royal personages. As a result of the former of these two functions, they are sometimes called a bard.

The kora (a 21-stringed African harp) is one of the most important instruments of the Manding peoples and it belongs exclusively to the few “griot” families within the Manding of West Africa and only those who are born into one of these families have the right to play the instrument professionally. The Jobarteh family is one of the five dynasties that holds this right. Sona’s lineage carries a formidable reputation for renowned kora masters and most notable amongst these are her grandfather, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh – an icon in Gambia’s cultural and musical history – and her cousin, the legendary, Toumani Diabaté. Sona is the first professional female kora virtuoso to come from any of the West African griot dynasties. Breaking with convention, she is a pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries.

For more information 
Sona Jobarteh's Website
Sona Jobarteh's Facebook

The Sona Jobarteh Band performance on 3/12 will be filmed and portions may be used in a future national television broadcast of 60 Minutes. By attending this performance, you consent to be potentially filmed.

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