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The first woman in Africa who decided to put an end to men’s dominance in playing the kora, an instrument of the Griots from West Africa. Born in London, she spent her time in the UK and his father’s homeland – Gambia. At the age of four, Sona was introduced to the repertoire and history of kora according to the tradition, i.e. by men. In her case it was her brother and father. A year later, she debuted along her brother in the London’s Jazz Café. Next, Sona learned how to play the piano, cello, harpsichord and harp, having attended the Purcell School of Music and Royal College of Music in London. As a teenager, she joined her brother Tunde Jegede’s band “ACM Ensemble”, with which she has performed all over the world and cooperated with such artists as Oumou Sangaré, Kasse Mady Diabaté and Toumani Diabaté. Some time later, Sona studied the vast repertoire of Mandinka music with her father and decided to focus on solo career.
Sona comes from one of the most important Griot families, in which people have been playing the kora for centuries. Her grandfather, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, was a famous kora virtuoso, and she is a cousin of the well-known and respected Toumani Diabaté. Nowadays, the Griot culture is mainly associated with Mali, where it is still an important part of musical life. However, Gambian musicians has also largely contributed to it. One of them was the legendary Balafasé Kouyate, the personal grio of the great Mandinka leader Sundiata Keita. Currently, this genre has not been doing well in Gambia, but attempts have been made to revive it. This is one of the reasons why Sona Jobarteh and her father founded a school in Gambia where children study music and culture of the former Mandinka Empire.
Having started his musical career in the 70s, the legend of Ghanaian highlife music Pat Thomas returned in 2015 after a 10-year break.
The West African highlife is a genre that has never been related to any political or social movements – it has been an expression of artistry and free spirit. Although it originates from higher classes of the Ghanaian society (hence the name of the genre), it quickly spread among the working classes not only in Ghana but also in neighbouring countries. This happened in the 30s and 40s. However, the big boom for highlife music came during the years of the greatest changes and rapid development in Africa, i.e. in the 60s and 70s. During that period, Pat Thomas started his career. Since 1968, he has been performing with equally popular Ebo Taylor. Together, they played in famous highlife bands – Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers. In the 70s, they were the pillars of Ghanaian music, not only in terms of highlife but also as afrobeat, afropop and afrofunk artists. They provided highlife with new elements, which originated from western as well as African music, e.g. Kwa from the vicinity of Kumasi. Thomas sang in various languages – in English, Frafra dialects and Ashanti Twi. He founded his own bands, including the famous Marijata and Sweet Beans, with which Tony Allen cooperated, as well.