The first time I heard the Kora was in Manchester in 2009. Somewhere in the city center Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh (video below) was busking with his Kora. I bought his CD and started searching for more Kora music.
Soon I came across the famous Toumani Diabate, but I also found out about Sona Jobarteh (photo of Instagram) – The fact that she is a woman is important to me, we all need role models that we can relate to. And she is a role model to me in the sense that she did not let this male-dominated tradition stop her from becoming a equally skillful Kora player.
Sona Jobarteh is the first female Kora virtuoso to come from a west African Griot family. Breaking away from tradition, she is a pioneer in an ancient male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for the past seven centuries.
Inspired by her I made this A3 size drawing below (using Gel Wax Crayons)
One of her latest video’s:
What I love in particular is that the instrument does not just sound beautiful, but the Griot (family lineages who play the kora) see themselves as the guardians of both the kora and an ancient oral tradition of history, poetry, craftsmanship, social etiquette and verbal dexterity. (I copied this bit of text from a great article in The Guardian about Toumani Diabate (whom she is also related to):
Other drawings I have made inspired by the Kora: