Born into a griot family from The Gambia that includes her legendary cousin, Toumani Diabaté, Sona Jobarteh is the first woman within the tradition to become a professional virtuoso on the kora, a West African stringed instrument. Effortlessly blending different musical styles, Jobarteh and her electric Afropop band play songs about cultural identity, gender, education, love, and respect.
Preserving her musical past, Sona Jobarteh innovates to support a more humanitarian future. The spirit of her music 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 + viewers on YouTube and considerable numbers on other digital platforms.
Sona Jobarteh has performed to crowds from the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles to Symphony Space in New York, and she’s sold out the Barbican in London, Cologne’s Philharmonie, and the Seine Musicale in Paris. These performances are under-pinned by her skills as a composer arising from early days at London’s RCM and Purcell School of Music.
Sona Jobarteh scored the film Motherland in 2010 & in 2022 the Hollywood blockbuster Beast, starring Idris Elba. She co-wrote a track on LL Cool J’s latest with Q Tip, and filmed 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 single handedly 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 center 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.