May 18, 2024


Buzz The Music

Sona Jobarteh, a barrier-breaker and professional kora participant, delivers Gambian tunes to Somerville

Jeremy Siegel: This is GBH’s Early morning Version. The musical instrument termed the kora has been played almost exclusively by men considering that the 13th century, strictly handed down as a family custom in West Africa. But a single musician has improved every little thing: Sona Jobarteh is the very first girl from a Griot family to come to be a professional kora player. And tomorrow, all through the final weekend of Women’s Historical past Thirty day period, she’s bringing her music to Somerville. I sat down with Jobarteh in advance of the overall performance to examine her journey to breaking obstacles with her instrument.

Sona Jobarteh: So the kora is usually likened to a harp in some senses. I guess you could use that reference point. It sounds a little little bit like that in the framework of the instrument is a little bit similar to that. It can be a tradition which is hereditary, indicating you have to be born inside the households to perform this instrument, alongside with other individuals that belong to these distinct people. So I started learning with my more mature brother when I was around 4 or 5 years outdated, so very a while ago. Even so, I started off studying with my father when I was all around 17 yrs of age, and that was truly the commencing of the journey in phrases of having this instrument as my occupation.

Siegel: What was that second like, when you knew that playing this instrument was going to be your vocation and the relaxation of your everyday living?

Jobarteh: Well, I necessarily mean, I would not say it truly is a minute. It is really a period of time of time in my everyday living when I recognized that this was anything that I wished to do professionally, as opposed to just anything that I was doing alongside other musical adventures. But I assume what was additional meaningful was the acceptance from my father to instruct me. I think that was actually an vital turning point in that journey.

Siegel: Was your father generally supportive of you participating in this instrument, offered the truth that typically it was not something that you would be ready to do?

Jobarteh: He in fact lived and labored in Norway through my younger a long time. So this was essentially a thing that I went to discover him myself in Norway and examined with him there. And then we continued back again in Gambia as I was heading as a result of that journey.

Siegel: Traditionally, the kora is not one thing that is performed skillfully by women. You were a barrier-breaker in getting this on as a job. Was that hard inside of your spouse and children at all?

Jobarteh: I had my personal methods of going about that, and it’s anything that I was not open about until eventually I was genuinely prepared. So my understanding expertise, my journey by means of that, was not some thing that I shared with any person else aside from my father and really immediate relatives. When I was all over 26, I feel, or a little something like that, was the time when I actually took that to a further level. But I did that by means of holding a functionality in The Gambia that was attended by most of my extended family members and clearly the wider neighborhood. So that definitely was the starting, I would say, of the journey that I’m now still on. [Previously recorded] This subsequent music we’re gonna execute is entitled “Mamamuso.” This is for my grandmother.

Siegel: Ended up you acutely aware of the fact that you had been breaking boundaries as a kora player, becoming 17 several years previous and coming to come across your father immediately after finding out from your brother, and then at 26 decades old, hitting the stage and turning out to be and proving that you can be a specialist kora participant? Did it feel pure, or was it a mindful conclusion of, I’m likely to improve things?

Jobarteh: And the 1st occasion, no, it was not a conscious selection for me to be heading about starting to be a kora player because of the fact I’m a woman. It was an instrument that I was quite significantly connected to and felt a enormous affinity to. I believe that it really is quite hard for people to type of faux. So it was additional of a hindrance remaining a woman in the earlier a long time, for the reason that of the truth that I was not in a position to get that journey as each individual other player in my family was in a position to, I had to go about it a unique way. Later on on, when I was by now at a phase in which I could complete on the instrument competently, that turned the minute I desired to embrace the point that I was breaking, in some techniques, the custom, and to be capable to navigate that in a diverse way really consciously due to the fact of the implications that it had.

Siegel: Sona Jobarteh, thank you so a great deal for using the time to discuss with me.

Jobarteh: Thank you.

Siegel: Sona Jobarteh performs Saturday night at the Somerville Theatre. This is GBH News.