Sona Jobarteh is the first professional female Kora virtuoso to come from any of the West African Griot dynasties. Her lineage carries a formidable reputation for renowned Kora masters, most notable amongst these are her grandfather Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and her cousin, the legendary Toumani Diabaté.
Sona is reputed for her skill as an instrumentalist, her distinctive voice, infectious melodies and her grace onstage, and she has rapidly achieved international success as a top class performer.
The demand for Sona Jobarteh’s live performances has rocket in recent years, and 2019 saw her perform at some of the world’s most renowned festivals and venues such as the Hollywood Bowl in LA, WOMAD in Australia and New Zealand and Symphony Space in New York City, whilst also performing all over Europe, in China, Africa and Canada.
Sona has the unique ability to touch audiences from all over the world and from all backgrounds and cultures, whilst also commanding the attention of sitting presidents and royalty alike. Her captivating stage show has proved to be popular everywhere, and with a repertoire that exudes accessible sophistication, her audience demographic is forever expanding.
As a vocalist, Sona has featured in award-winning films such as the Hollywood movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and The First Grader – the latter winning the “Discovery of the Year” prize at the Hollywood World Soundtrack Awards in 2012.
SONA JOBARTEH AND YOUSSOU N'DOUR
SONA JOBARTEH AND ANGELIQUE KIDJO
Sona’s dedication to spreading powerful humanitarian messages through her songs and her stage performances makes her much more than a regular musician; she is in fact a compelling social activist, speaker, and change-maker who believes in leading by example. Her achievements in setting up a pioneering Academy in The Gambia, alongside her dedication to social change has gained her invitations to deliver speeches at high profile events around the world, including summits for the UN and the World Trade Organization.
Sona Jobarteh founded the Gambia Academy in 2015. It is a pioneering institution dedicated to achieving her mission of educational reform across the continent Africa. According to the 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 curricula content within these schools are invariably oriented around a post-colonial value system and subsequently a foreign perspective.
For Sona, it is detrimental for future generations of the continent whose values and concepts are shaped during their school years, to continue to be trained within a system where African culture, African history, African traditions and their intrinsic values are either non-existent, or at best relegated to the position of extra-curricular ‘activities’. This Academy is therefore the first of its kind in The Gambia to deliver a mainstream academic curriculum at a high level, whilst also bringing the culture, traditions and history that belong to students, to the front and centre of their everyday education.
SONA JOBARTEH AND OUMOU SANGARE
SONA JOBARTEH AND HABIB KOITE
Sona Jobarteh's musical expertise is underpinned by her skills as composer. During her teenage years she majored in western classical composition at the Purcell School of Music in the UK, as well as studying cello, piano and harpsichord at the Royal College of Music. In 2010 she landed her first commission scoring the soundtrack for film ‘Motherland’. Here she cultivated a fresh sound-world in African cinematic music. The film went on to collect multiple awards around the world.
More recently, she was commissioned by PRS to compose a piece for Western and African instruments, exploring the meeting points between these two worlds through a dynamic, musical journey. In 2019, her composition, titled 'Innovation Through Preservation' was premiered at the South Bank’s renowned Purcell Room, in London and was aired on the BBC. The piece was lauded by The Observer newspaper as uniting West African and Western Classical sounds “…to exuberant and poetic effect.”
SONA JOBARTEH, ASANTE KING AND FORMER GHANA PRESEIDENT J.J RAWLINGS
SONA JOBARTEH AND GILBERTO GIL
Sona is also a unique academic within the field of Mande music, history and social anthropology. She delivers unique, engaging lectures which incorporate demonstrative performances as well as her first-hand insights into the tradition, drawing on intriguing narratives of modernity and gender. Her lectures are underpinned by critically challenging accepted perspectives on African studies. She has lectured and held residencies at universities and colleges in Africa, Asia, and across the United States and Europe.
SONA JOBARTEH AND PRESIDENT OF GERMANY
SONA JOBARTEH AND PRINCE CHARLES
SONA JOBARTEH AND BALLAKE CISSOKHO
SONA JOBARTEH AND KIRK WHALUM