I recently discovered this young London-based Gambian musician Sona Jobarteh. She comes from a long line of master musicians and griots from the Gambia in West Africa. The kora, by the way, is a traditional 21 string harp-lute, a classical African instrument used for millenia in Mali, Guinea, Senegal and other West African countries. It seems to fit beautifully in so many different musical configurations: Volker Goetz, a German trumpet player, did a cd with Ablaye Sissoko; Vincent Segal, a French cellist did one, so did Ludovico Einaudi, the Italian pianist.
Traditionally the kora, like the trombone, contrabass, or trumpet in jazz, has been played almost exclusively by men. Like Esperanza Spalding, the Best New Artist Grammy winner (upright bass), Sona Jobarteh has departed from tradition. Her album Fasiya has everything in it that makes me love African music: virtuosic playing, swaying, sensual rhythms, a soft and sensuous voice. Check out this video from the BBC: