Sona Jobarteh and her story of Perseverance

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As a woman, Sona was not allowed to play the instrument, but when she decided to make her move, she did not let things stand in her way. She explains how she abandoned the rules and started focusing on remodelling education in Africa.

 

Sona Jobarteh was the first female kora player who prospered in her trade. She learned from her father, and today she is internationally successful.

 

As a girl, she had a difficult time accepting her gender. She wanted to be a born person rather than an object of novelty. At the time, her favourite thing was football; she took up this sport more often than singing. But since women were not considered equal, there were no opportunities in sports or music, so it became clear that society would never change.

 

Yammiya grew up in a family where music was emphasised as a part of their heritage. Her father encouraged her to play the kora, an African lute-harp hybrid. She said that she felt like the instrument felt like it was made for her. After receiving a degree from the Purcell School for Young Musicians and the Soas University of London for History and Linguistics, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps and formally studied Gambian music. Through her formal education, she learned with some of the best musicians in the Gambia!

 

On a small stage, Jobarteh felt confident about performing – but only with her father next to her, and she also decided to sing. Juldeh Camara praised her singing after hearing demos and insisted the show go on.

 

Her 2011 album, Fasiya and her work since have been successful with many international listeners. Yet, she has remained silent and has not put out another record until the release of Nana Taariko (translates to “my story”) in September. Jobarteh is an espouser of new ideas on African education systems as she founded the Gambia Academy in 2015. The academy teaches African languages and culture alongside mainstream subjects to break from colonial systems still present in many countries. For things to change, there needs to be a shift in education across the board so that all tasks are seen as equal and important, even when it comes to mental or physical exertion or a feeling of community build-up.

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Jobarteh Academy is situated in the Gambia with 26 students and a goal of undoing their education system. They are focusing on agriculture, computer classes, and construction.

 

Jobalday had to deal with school problems from a distance. Her old deputy was out at the time of the situation in Australia.

 

Teaching is a new griot tradition. Jobarteh discusses how griots provide a “different voice, different viewpoint,” but that this griot’s role has fallen out of today’s society. Jobarteh points to political or commercial pressures as the reason for this change in society, where politico-commercial pressures have led to changes in society dictating those things. Criticism and preservation of original traditions need to be brought back into schools and universities so that there isn’t a generation of talented people stuck in cultural fields like hip-hop and R&B instead of expressing themselves and trying to make their voices heard.

 

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