West African music to be heard at WKC

Courtesy photoSona Jobarteh

The West Kortright Centre will present vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sona Jobarteh for an evening of contemporary West African music at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22.

Jobartehm a kora player, guitarist, vocalist, composer, traditionalist and innovator, blends traditional music, blues and Afropop, according to a media release.

She’ll perform for the first time in this part of the world with African musicians Andi McLean on bass and vocals, Mouhamadou Sarr on percussion and vocals, Derek Johnson on acoustic guitar, and Westley Joseph on drums and vocals.

The kora, a 21-stringed African harp, is an important instrument in the traditions of the Manding peoples of West Africa, according to the release. It belongs exclusively to griot families (hereditary musical families who preserve ancient stories and traditions through song), and only those who are born into one of those families have the right to take up the instrument professionally. Jobarteh is the first female kora virtuoso to come from a West African griot family. Breaking away from tradition, she is considered a modern-day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated musical tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries, the release said.

Jobarteh’s brother, Tunde Jegede, began teaching her the kora when she was 4, and by age 6, she was also learning the cello, piano and harp, the release said. She gave her first performance on the kora alongside her brother at London’s Jazz Café at the age of 5, and her first solo cello recital at age 11 at the South Bank Purcell Room in London. As a young teenager, she was admitted into the Royal College of Music and the Purcell School in the U.K., where she studied western classical music and began writing compositions for full orchestra. By her mid-teens, Jobarteh was a member of her brother’s ACM Ensemble, with which she toured the world for many years, working alongside artists such as Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, and The BBC Symphony Orchestra. In her late teens, she began intense study of the kora with her father, Sanjally Jobarteh, completed a degree in African culture and linguistics at London’s SOAS University, and began to develop her identity as a solo artist.

In 2010, Jobarteh was commissioned to compose the score to Owen Alik Shahadah’s multi-award–winning documentary film “The Motherland.” Since then, she has been featured as solo vocalist on soundtracks to “The First Grader” (for which her piece won the “Discovery of the Year Prize” at the Hollywood World Soundtrack Awards in 2012), director Justin Chadwick’s 2014 blockbuster Hollywood movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and on the 2016 miniseries “Roots,” based on the 1976 novel by Alex Haley.

Working in Gambia and the U.K., Jobarteh produced her solo album “Fasiya” in 2011 on the Heritage label. In recent years, she’s been headlining major festivals around the world, and won the 2018 Artist of the Year award at Europe’s Africa music festival in Wurzburg, Germany. 

Advance tickets are $28 or $24 for members. They will be $4 more at the door, if available. Tickets are $10 for those 9 to 18 and free for children 8 and younger. Tickets are available online until 24 hours before the show. The ticket booth will open at 7 p.m. June 22; doors open at 7:30. Food will be available for purchase on site starting at 6 p.m. 

The West Kortright Centre is at 49 W. Kortright Church Road in West Kortright. For advance tickets and exact travel directions, visit www.westkc.org.