Sona Jobarteh is a world-renowned Gambian musician with stunning mastery of the Kora, an incredible 21-stringed African harp that is capable of producing rich, lush melodies that resonate with delicious vibrancy. For the past seven centuries, the Kora and its mastery were passed down exclusively from father to son in griot families, a tradition that allows only males born into hereditary musical families to take up the family instrument professionally. Sona hails from a west African Griot family of renowned Kora musicians, but her undisputed mastery of the instrument broke through the male-dominated hereditary tradition and launched her on a path of international recognition.
Not only is Sona the first female Kora virtuoso, but her musicianship has garnered her a long list of accolades. In 2010, Sona was commissioned to compose a film score to the multi-award winning documentary film “The Motherland.” In 2011, Sona released her critically acclaimed album “Fasiya” (Heritage) and quickly found international success. The album, which established her reputation as a mature producer, features Sona playing instruments such as the Ngoni, flute, guitar, bass and percussion.
Sona is also admired for her beautiful voice, and in 2011 Hollywood film composer Alex Heffes invited her to perform as a solo vocalist in the soundtrack for the film “The First Grader.” Not only did Sona’s piece win “Discovery of the Year Prize” at the Hollywood World Soundtrack Awards in 2012, but she also performed it live in Belgium backed by a 80-piece orchestra. Sona’s rich vocal solo’s are also featured in the soundtrack for “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (2014) and in the Hollywood series “Roots” (2016), based on the 1976 novel by Alex Haley.
Sona has traveled the world headlining major festivals in Brazil, India, South Korea, Ghana, Mexico, Tanzania, Cote D’Ivoire, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Malaysia, just to name a few. She has also lectured at universities in the UK, US, and Germany. Promoting the arts in The Gambia is also a top priority for Sona——in 2014, she began The Gambia Academy of Music and Culture, the first cultural academy in The Gambia. The project is gaining momentum and Sona is now revolving much of her career around this pioneering venture.