Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cervantino 2014: Kora player Sona Jobarteh at the Alhondiga

A classically trained musician, Sona Jobarteh is the first Mandinka woman to play the kora, by tradition a man's instrument
Sona Jobarteh, the granddaughter and daughter of kora players, played her melodic 21-stringed instrument in the press room before going onstage at the Alhondiga. There, backed by five male musicians--two drummers and three guitarists-- she played, she danced, she sang--in short, she charmed her audience.

In Gambia, traditionally the kora was played to accompany oral storytelling, epics really, recounting the history of families. Sona explained that in the days of kings, the royal griot (bard) was an important asset to the royal family and continues to be for individual families. Her father, a griot, accompanied himself on the kora. Sona's family is proud of her for maintaining the family's musical heritage.

Foreigners have become interested in the kora but she said Madinkas have an advantage in learning the instrument because they have grown up hearing kora music. "The technique does not take so long to master, but the musical side is much harder."

Sona Jobarteh currently has three women among the students she teaches. She emphasizes that besides their learning to play, she sees a rise in the women's self-esteem.

After listing to Sona Jobarteh, I believe the Wikipedia article on Madinka music understates the importance of kora music to Gambians and others in West Africa. Here's a more reliable link that can lead you to  more about the kora. .

Your comments on this and other Cervantino events please!..

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