Africa & Middle East Award Winner
Badinyaa Kumoo on African Guild Records
It took Sona Jobarteh more than a decade to follow up her 2011 solo debut Fasiya with the brilliant Badinyaa Kumoo – but in the context of griot heritage she insists the gap was little more than the blink of an eye. “This tradition has been here for hundreds of years so I can take another year or two if it needs it,” she told Songlines in 2021. “I don’t even feel like this is my album, I feel like it’s my contribution to the tradition.”
Born in 1983 into a famous musical family – Toumani Diabaté is her cousin – she studied cello, piano and harpsichord at London’s Royal College of Music but found celebrity as West Africa’s first professional female kora virtuoso. The tag undoubtedly helped launch her career although she hopes that by now expectations have moved on and there is no longer anything unusual about a woman playing the instrument.
Her first album was a personal exploration of her ancestral repertoire but when the follow-up finally arrived it proved to be a more expansive and ambitious affair, crammed with fine new compositions sung in Mandinka and with djembé, calabash and her own glorious kora playing mixed seamlessly with Western instrumentation.