West African virtuoso becomes first woman griot kora player
Victoria/Vancouver Jazz Fest
Sona Jobarteh
West African kora player Sona Jobarteh and her band play at both the Victoria and Vancouver Jazz Festivals this weekend. On Saturday night at 10 pm she appears at the Victoria Event Centre, 1415 Broad St. On Sunday afternoon she plays a free set at Vancouver’s David Lam Park at 3:30 pm.


West African virtuoso becomes first woman griot kora player

For seven centuries members of the five main griot families in west Africa inherited their jobs as the respected and chosen storytellers, historians, poets and musicians of their countries. The work  – including learning to play kora– had been handed down from father to son.

Musician Sona Jobarteh and her family changed that. Her Gambian father and English mother broke the tradition, helping Jobarteh to become the first woman griot kora virtuoso. The kora is a 21-stringed African harp developed in  six countries of west Africa.

 Jobarteh is a singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and innovator trained in both the United Kingdom and Gambia. She blends traditional west African sounds with other styles including blues and Afropop. Since the release of her well-received 2011 album, Fasiya, Jaborteh has been drawing listeners and headlining festivals around the world.

Jobarteh and her band play an intricate, pulsing blend of rhythms featuring congas, djembe, drum kit, guitar, bass and the kora alongside her strong, confident vocal melodies.

She presents an almost regal profile in traditional African dress while –unlike most kora players– standing as she performs.

A Roster of Internationally Acclaimed Griot Players

Other west African griots familiar to international audiences include Baaba Maal, Youssou N’Dour, Habib Koité, Foday Musa Suso and King Sunny Ade.

Jobarteh’s grandfather, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, was the Master Griot of his generation. Her second cousin, Toumani Diabate is regarded as the world’s top kora player.


Playing in Victoria and Vancouver this weekend

Jobarteh and her band are playing both the Victoria and Vancouver Jazz Festivals this Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s 10 pm performance at the Victoria Events Centre. On Sunday afternoon they play a 3:30 pm show in Vancouver’s David Lam Park.

The band includes Derek Johnson guitar, Andrew Mclean bass/vocals, Westley Joseph drums/vocals, Mouhamadou Sarr percussion.

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Kris Sig Plastic V3

01 July 2019