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Sona Jobarteh

Gambia

Brilliant and progressive kora player

Being born into a musical family is one thing. Being born into one of the five kora-playing families in West Africa is another thing entirely. And this was Sona Jobarteh’s fate –being the granddaughter of the Gambian maestro Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and the cousin of the Malian great Toumani Diabate. Not that, of course, her ancestry automatically meant she’d be taking up the family business; it’s a tradition passed down from father to son, after all. But Sona ploughed her own furrow, becoming Gambia’s first female professional kora player –and a spellblindingly great one at that, her fingers a blur when the tempo rises. Currently building the Gambia Academy of Music and Culture, Sona is nudging the kora tradition in a forward direction while respecting its lengthy history and heritage. The balance is there. “My Africa is ancestral, innovative and progressive.”