By Mamour M Mbenga
Sona Jobarteh and her management team on 19 November 2015, organized a press conference at a local hotel in Senegambia, marking the official release of Sona Jobarteh’s new single and debut music video ‘Gambia’. This release is to celebrate Gambia’s Golden Jubilee of independence. Representatives from the British High Commission, Ministry of Tourism and culture and Musicians’ Union of the Gambia were also present at the gathering.
The President of the Musicians’ Union of the Gambia Doctor Oliver Mboge delivered a statement on behalf of his union.
‘’Sona is a great Musician who has been performing on the international stage in Europe and other parts of the world to represent the Gambia traditional music. We as a union will always maintain the support and protection of our stars especially icons like Sona,’’said Mr. Mboge.
The president of the musician’s union in conclusion, promises the female kora player that his union would continue to work with her to any level.
Sona, the first female kora virtuoso has spent the month of June producing her debut video entitled ‘’The Gambia’’ the song was filmed by accomplishment crew from the U.S to undertake this crucial project. The music video was directed by Jacob Bain and Robert Frost as the cameraman. The scene of the video project was shooting in various locations in the Gambia to capture the nation’s endowed rich cultural heritage.
For her part, Sona described the Gambia as a nation of cultural heritage and a better place for cultural and traditional musicians.
‘’My Band was invited to perform at the 50th independent celebrations, that gives me the initiative to produce the video project entitled ‘’Gambia’’ the five minutes music video has taken ten days of production. The reason why I introduced an idea of this project, is that in my travel experience people always ask me about The Gambia but this video will also help those who never visited the Gambia to know more about the country’’ Sona explains.
The singer also promises her fans that her album would be released next year as her band would be invited from England to participate at the launching in the Gambia. She thanked family members, friends, stakeholders, Musicians, both local and the international media institutions that supported the project.
Sona said her aim and objective is to support the young talents who want to study performing art (culture) as an academic subject and take it as full time profession.
Sona recently was the curator of the Brave Festival in Poland this year, the 11th edition of the festival was dedicated to the role of the griot and Sona was elected by the festival director Grzegorz Bral to lead this year’s edition as the curator and artistic director. Bringing Musicians to participate in the festival such as Kasse Mady Diabate, Balla Kouyate, Ballake sissoko and Vieux Farka Toure. Sona succeeded in bringing together an outstanding festival programme which was treasured by the Polish audiences.
Sona jabarteh is a traditional Musician who was born in 1983 in England and hails from the roots of the Jobarteh family in Bansang. Sona is the first female kora virtuoso to come from a West African griot traditional family. She is a modern day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries. Her family carries a heavy reputation for renowned kora masters. Amadou Bansang Jobarteh, her grandfather who was a great griot and remains a leading icon in the Gambia’s cultural and musical history. Her cousin, Toumani Diabate is also well-known worldwide for his mastery of the kora. Sona was tutored to play the kora by her elder brother Tunde Jegede. Sona started her musical journey at a very young age, she later developed her expertise under the tutorship of her father Sanjally Jobarteh.
Sona spent years working as a musician in UK, training and studying musicology at Royal College of Music and Purcell School of Music. Sona was able to work with various international stars such as Oumou Sangare, Toumani Diabate, kasse Mady Diabate and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Sona’s Vocals were featured in the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘’Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom’’ which was released in UK in January 2014.The track Sona featured as solo vocalist in the film ‘’The First Grader’’ directed by Justin Chadwick won the ‘’Discovery of the Year Prize’’ at the Hollywood world Soundtrack Awards.
Sona gained her first opportunity to perform as a solo vocalist at the award ceremony live with 80 –piece Orchestra.
In 2010 Sona composed the film ‘’The Motherland’’ with score to the Multi-Award Winning Documentary Film. The film was directed by Owen Alik Shahadah.
Sona spent many years carefully piercing together her band, forming a UK -based band that is both sympathetic and sensitive to the subtle idioms of the kora repertoire has not been an easy task. The kora is a 21 stringed African harp; the traditional instrument belongs to the Mandinka ethnic group. It can be found in Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau.
Sona has now achieved the formation of a group of inspiring musicians from different parts of Africa, who manage to render her music to the international world stage.
In 2011, Sona released her critically acclaimed album entitled ‘’Fasiya’’with 11 tracks which was a landmark not only in her music journey, but in the continuously evolving tradition that is a product of herself. Sona has poured not only her abilities as a singer but a multi-instrumentalist, producer and a music composer.
ABJ MUSIC SCHOOL
As an ardent advocator of tradition Sona has been working on setting up Gambia’s first Manding Music School over the past two years which is dedicated to cultivating knowledge and expertise in traditional music and culture amongst the next generation of young Gambians. The school was named after her grandfather Amadou Bansang Jobarteh(ABJ Music School),and informally set up by her father Sanjally Jobarteh. Sona’s dream is to see the success of this school stand as an enduring testament to the invaluable legacy her grandfather left behind as well as to inspire the next generation to practice traditional music and culture.