+
Pop Culture

Watch the world's first female virtuoso kora player perform a beautiful West African love song

Sona Jobarteh and her band take listeners on a musical voyage in their version of "Jarabi."

sona jobarteh, jarabi, kora music

If music be the food of love, play on.

“Jarabi," meaning “beloved,” is a popular West African song that was written after the country of Mali gained independence from the French in 1960. Rich in metaphors symbolizing the people’s love for their country and culture, the song was meant to instill a sense of “hope and resolve,” according to World Music in Education.

The essential sound of “Jarabi” comes from the kora, a 12-stringed harp dating back to the 18th century. In Mande tradition—meaning that of the Mande speaking peoples of western Africa, which includes the country of Mali—playing the kora professionally was an exclusive sacred right reserved for males in families of tribal storytellers known as griots.

That’s what makes this recently resurfaced viral video from May 2022 so unique.


In it you’ll find Sona Jobarteh, the first ever female virtuoso player of the kora. Born into a griot family, Jobarteh first began learning the instrument from her brother at 3 years old. Her passion grew as she got older. Eventually she decided to make a career out of it, and history along the way.

“I really wanted to study with my father because he is very much an expert in that style of playing,” she shared in an interview with French radio station RFI. She added that her father was very adamant that she earn recognition for her talent, and talent alone.

"He told me that he will teach me as his child, not as his daughter, not as his son but as his child which is no gender. And also he told me that the one thing he wanted in return for teaching me is that I aim to be just a good kora player not a good female kora player."

Jobarteh has certainly fulfilled her father’s wishes. Her skills have reached wide acclaim, gaining the reputation of a top-level performer for not only playing the kora, but for her melodic voice and strong stage presence as well. She’s performed all over the world, been featured in award-winning films and has released two albums.


Coincidentally, Jobarteh is also the cousin of Toumani Diabeté, a world-renowned kora player and the writer of “Jarabi.” Her beautiful rendition of his song below pays homage to history while breaking barriers all at the same time. It also stands as a powerful reminder that music transcends all limits to connect us with our joy.

Watch and be transported away:

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Some cries for help can be hard to discern.

“I’m fine.”

How easily these two words slip from our mouths, often when nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes, it feels safer to hide our true feelings, lest someone make a judgment or have a negative reaction. Other times, it’s a social rule instilled in childhood, perhaps even through punishment. Or maybe denying is the only way to combat overwhelm—if we ignore it all long enough, things will eventually get better anyway.

At the end of the day … it’s all about avoiding further pain, isn’t it?

But this denial can lead to even more suffering—not only emotionally, but physically as well. Everything from stiff muscles, to migraines, to digestive issues can stem from suppressing emotions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy and delight.

From stellar sportsmanship to corntastic kiddos to adorable animals, enjoy the best of the internet this week.

Wait. Are we really almost halfway through August already? Didn't I just write one of these intros talking about how summer had arrived? What the heck happened???

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess, and these weekly roundups are nothing but fun. Every day it seems like we're bombarded with something new to stress about or be outraged over, but not here. In this space, we celebrate simple joys, awesome humans, hilarious animals and all things smile-worthy.

This week alone, we've seen sportsmanship that inspired us, parenting that touched our hearts and kiddos that tickled our funny bones. Readers have told us they look forward to our 10 things roundup every week, which is good because we have no intention of stopping. (Honestly, it's therapeutic to pull this list together, so win-win all around!)

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

How breastfeeding actually works is seriously awe-inspiring

Let's take a moment to marvel at this miraculous process.

A viral video shows what's happening beneath the surface when a baby breastfeeds.

Let me start by saying I don't care whether you breastfeed or not. Everyone's circumstances are different, no one needs to explain why they did or didn't breastfeed their babies and we'd all be better off with far fewer judgments across the baby-feeding spectrum.

With that disclaimer out of the way, can we at least all agree that breastfeeding is freaking awesome?

I mean, the whole biological process of growing an entire human practically from scratch is mind-blowing all by itself. But the fact that our bodies then create food to feed that human, with a whole system for how and when that food gets made and released, is just so cool.

Keep ReadingShow less