Classical Music of Africa

This song by Sona Jobarteh is surely an Ode To Joy for our present age.

The video shows a loving and idealized portrait of modern West Africa, steeped in traditional roots

Up to the middle of the 19th century, classical music came from Central Europe. Sona has absorbed this tradition from early childhood, interwoven with her own African roots. I’ve edited the following out of Wikipedia:

“Born in London, Maya Sona Jobarteh is a member of one of the five principal kora-playing (griot) families from West Africa, and the first female member of such a family to rise to prominence on this instrument. The playing of this 21-stringed harp-like instrument was exclusively passed down from father to son.The instrument is an important element of the Mandingo peoples in West Africa and their playing is reserved only to certain families called Griot.Her cousin is the well-known, celebrated kora player Toumani Diabaté. Her mother is English.

“She has studied the kora since the age of three, at first taught by her 14 year-old brother with whom she traveled several times a year to the Gambia as a child, and then by her father. She attended the Royal College of Music, studying studied cello, piano and harpsichord, and the Purcell School of Music to study composition.She gave her first performance at London’s Jazz Café at the age of four,and performed at festivals several times in her early childhood.

“When still a music student she worked on several orchestral projects, including the “River of Sound” with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, featuring Evelyn Glennie, and other collaborative works, including performances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Milton Keynes City Orchestra and the Viva Chamber Orchestra.

“In 2002 she performed in Vienna with the renowned jazz vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, also forming a part of his support act for Cassandra Wilson at the Barbican in London. She also featured on Damon Albarn’s Mali Music Project, which was later performed for Jools Holland.

“She has collaborated on stage with Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, Kasse Made Diabaté and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Jobarteh is a regular member of her brother Tunde Jegede’s African Classical Music Ensemble, which has toured England, Ireland, Africa and parts of the Caribbean. Jobarteh also teaches the kora in London. She worked with her father, Sanjally Jobarteh, in setting up a formal music school in the Gambia, named after her famous grandfather.”

The only European family with a comparable number of musicians is the Bachs.

“The Bach family was of importance in the history of music for nearly two hundred years, with over 50 known musicians and several notable composers, the best-known of whom was Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). A family genealogy was drawn up by Johann Sebastian Bach himself and completed by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel. The Bach family never left Thuringia until the sons of Sebastian went into a more modern world. Through all the misery of the peasantry at the period of the Thirty Years’ War this clan maintained its position and produced musicians who, however local their fame, were among the greatest in Europe. So numerous and so eminent were they that in Erfurt musicians were known as ‘Bachs’, even when there were no longer any members of the family in the town. Sebastian Bach thus inherited the artistic tradition of a united family whose circumstances had deprived them of the distractions of the century of musical fermentation which in the rest of Europe had destroyed polyphonic music.”


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