“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. 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 23 + 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 and post-pandemic to 67 in 2022; she completed 15 dates in USA from the Hollywood Bowl in LA to Symphony Space in NYC; she added WOMAD Australia and New Zealand. Sona has increased her audiences in London to sell out 1200 seats at The Barbican, 2,000 in Cologne’s Philharmonie, when playing Paris for the second time at Seine Musicale it sold out all 1200 places. 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 by 2022 was scoring some of the Hollywood blockbuster “Beast” starring Idris Elba, co writing a track on LL Cool J’s latest with Q Tip and filming several of her live shows for NBC’s “60 minutes”.
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.
Sona made 63 worldwide concert appearances in 2022, including a US Tour of 10 shows that followed on the heels of her Senegalese tour. Nevertheless, she managed to squeeze in special projects – 1) a commission for a guest spot from Q Tip producer of the forthcoming LL Cool J album, 2) a featured track for Hollywood blockbuster movie “Beast” starring Idris Elba 3) a 15 minute feature on CBS news “60 Minutes” program due to air this October, just in time to coincide with the release of her long awaited second album – “Badinyaa Cuomo “ featuring Youssou N’Dour, Ballake Sissoko and Kirk Whalum.