Dobet Gnahoré, singer, dancer and percussionist from the Ivory Coast, inherited the force of the “Bété“ tradition from her father, Boni Gnahoré, master percussionist .who appears with the Abidjan-based Ki-Yi Mbock Company (meaning “Ultimate Knowledge” in Bassa) a famous 50 person co operative village within Abidjan
It was within this Ivory Coast-based company that Dobet met French guitarist Colin Laroche de Féline, who went there to immerse himself in African melodies and rhythms.
Having spent some time in the well-known Tché Tché dance company, Dobet decided with Colin (in 1999) to form a duo, Ano Neko, which means “Let’s create together“ in Bété language. The duo toured widely in France (1999-2000)
When they returned to Abidjan in 2001, they took part in MASA Off (festival) where they were the centre of attention and, while they were there, they recorded eight songs under the supervision of the late Marcellin Yacé.
In 2003, their artistic project refocused on Dobet Gnahoré and expanded when a backup vocalist and a percussionist joined them. Contre Jour Label (long time home to Habib Koite and many others) took charge of Dobet’s career and produced her first album entitled “Ano Neko“, making the link with Dobet and Colin Laroche’s story. This CD comprises songs mainly recorded in Abidjan during the summer of 2003. She released “Na Afriki” (2007), “Djekpa La You” (2010) and Na Drê (2014)
From Mandingue melodies to Congolese rumba, from Ivory Coast Ziglibiti to Cameroon Bikoutsi, from Ghanian High-Life to Zulu choirs, their compositions, carried along with jazz-like sounds, are varied and colourful. The sanza, the balafon, the calebasse and bongos are brought in to support the guitar, the vocal backup and Dobet’s warm and powerful voice…
Dobet sings in a range of African languages including Bété, Fon, Baoule, Lingala, Malinke, Mina or Bambara, thereby reproducing the Pan-African tradition of the Ki Yi Mbock group.
On stage, her voice, her charisma and her huge presence, the result of several years theatrical and choreographic taining, brings ecstatic audience approval. This is evidenced by the Venues that have hosted this illustrious performer in The USA and all across Europe….in the UK alone she has appeared at WOMAD, Kings Place, Africa Oye, Rich Mix and Union Chapel.
Her New Album “Miziki” for Spring 2018 release will bring her even further into the spotlight.
Sona and her fab band will be playing at the Theatre Pitoeff in Geneva this Saturday, May 19. Come on out and hear some great music from this tradition-busting kora virtuoso.
Sona and her magnificent band on Feb 11 will play the Cambridge Corn Exchange.
We are excited about Tigran’s new solo album, “An Ancient Observer”, which will be released March 31st.
Here’s a fascinating sneak listen!
From Tigran’s website:
“In regards to An Ancient Observer, Tigran took advantage of living in Armenia to compose a beauty—looking at his surroundings and reflecting on the bigger picture. “When I gaze out of my window and see the biblical mountain Ararat with the perpetual snow on its peak with foregrounds of electrical towers with wires cutting the picture, and the satellite dishes melted onto old and modern houses, ancestral smoke coming out of the chimneys and the birds hovering above the trees with occasional airplane trails in the vastness of the sky is the dialogue, the interaction of the God-given ancient nature and our modern human achievements,” he says. “For me it is an awakening and a beautiful feeling to be able to observe the magnificence of this sleeping volcanic giant which has existed for millions of years and was observed by from the Ararat Valley Koura-Arax culture to the present day citizens of the Armenian republic.”
A kora player with all the makings of an international star by Robin Denselow
4 / 5 stars
Jobarteh is Africa’s first female griot kora virtuoso, and also a fine singer and composer, blending traditional music, blues and Afropop to impressive effect
This concert starts with a slinky riff from guitarist Derek Johnson, backed by bass, drums and percussion. Then on comes Sona Jobarteh carrying a kora, the west African harp that is traditionally played by male griots, or hereditary musicians, and never by women. This is the woman who decided to change the rules. She bravely starts with Jarabi, a classic griot piece popularised by the world’s finest kora player, Toumani Diabaté, who is her second cousin. She stands as she plays, and after demonstrating her elegant and intricate kora work, she proves that she is also a fine singer, with a cool, laid-back style.
Jobarteh is unique. Her father is from a distinguished griot family but her mother is English, and she studied music and composition in London before returning to Africa to become the first female griot kora virtuoso. Inevitably, she has an eclectic style. Kaira, another griot favourite, starts as a kora solo but develops into a funky and improvised workout, with Sona now trading musical phrases with the inspired percussionist Mamadou Sarr, best-known for his work with Baaba Maal. On Gambia, a tribute to her homeland, she eases towards Afropop, while on the bluesy Gainaako she switches to guitar.
She has all the makings of an international star, but needs to tighten the set and talk a little less – although she has a fine sense of humour. And a new album would help – the last one was released five years ago.
Sona Jobarteh and her crack band will play the Yellow Arches in Sheffield on Monday, November 14.
“Sona has an effortless ability to blend different musical styles, not just between the West and Africa, but also between West African musical genres. She uses her innovative stance to talk about issues to do with cultural identity, gender, love and respect whilst still referencing and rooting herself firmly in her traditional cultural heritage. Sona represents her tradition in a way that is easily accessible to her audiences from around the world, who are drawn in by her captivating voice, strong rhythms and catchy melodies.”
Watch and listen to her play the kora, a 21-string harp from West Africa; her grooving band complete an amazing line-up.
You can buy tickets here.