Sona Jobarteh + Béla Fleck live at Philharmonie Luxembourg

It’s all about strings!

Sona Jobarteh Photo: Rob O’ Connor/Béla Fleck Photo: William Matthews

When we think about strings, our mind goes directly to one instrument: the violin.

Isn’t it true?

However, there is a whole world of different instruments out there and they all belong to this family. Some of them are well known (like double bass or mandolin, for example), others have a long history and are more traditional (like kora or banjo).

Whether electric or acoustic, plucked or strummed, played solo or with a band, these instruments will show their family’s incredible breadth and diversity. In addition, the performers will bring their stories and traditions and share them with the audience.

Sona Jobarteh – “Badinyaa Kumoo”

Photo:  Alfonso Salgueiro/Philharmonie Luxembourg

Sona Jobarteh is a performer, public speaker/activist, composer and lecturer. She belongs to the griots, a West African dynasty of musician-storytellers who have been keeping and passing on West Africa’s memory for thousands of years. In the griot tradition, only men can play an instrument, while women can only sing. However, belonging to a family known for renowned Kora masters – her grandfather is Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and her cousin is Toumani Diabaté, a real legend – Sona wanted to keep up with her family tradition – while breaking the rules at the same time – and she has become the first female Kora professional virtuoso.

In addition to her career as a performer, Sona Jobarteh has been featured as a vocalist in award winning films, like “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and “The First Grader”.

Jobarteh is also a public speaker and activist. Her songs are dedicated to spreading powerful humanitarian messages to empower women, to liaise with other artists and invite them to think about their position and on what they say, especially towards young generations.

She believes in leading by example and in music as the most powerful, universal language, a language that everyone can understand. In 2015, she founded the Gambia Academy, a pioneering institution “dedicated to achieving her mission of educational reform across the continent of Africa”. “This Academy is the first of its kind in the Gambia to deliver a mainstream academic curriculum at a high level, while also bringing the culture, traditions and history that belong to students, to the front and centre of their everyday education”.

“Good evening, Germany! “

This is what she repeats a few times at the beginning of the concert. The audience has to remind her that we are in Luxembourg and not in Germany. She apologizes for her mistake, explaining that her previous concert was in Germany. They took a bus just after that to come to Luxembourg and she was so tired that she really thought she was in another country.

This is how she involuntarily breaks the ice with the audience.

After that, Sona shows how empathetic, how grounded, how bonded to her traditions she is. She immediately clicks with the people in the Grand Auditorium, explaining each song, and from each song we can understand her roots and her life.

Musolu, for example, is a tribute to women as civilization driving forces. Mamamuso is dedicated to her grandmother, while Dunoo is a message to artists urging them to think carefully about the content of their art, the messages they spread, and to carry a sense of responsibility for what they promote. She also played Gambia, the song dedicated to her country.

Béla Fleck – “My Bluegrass Heart”

Photo:  Eric Devillet/Philharmonie Luxembourg

On February 9th, the Grand Auditorium of the Philharmonie hosts Béla Fleck, the artist who is considered the premier banjo player in the world.

It is another big switch in the program of the venue, where, in just a few days, the audience is taken from the roots and heritage of African music to the roots of American music.

These two events are linked together by two main facts:

  • the artists, Sona Jobarteh and Béla Fleck, both play string instruments
  • their instruments, kora and banjo, have both African origins

Béla Fleck comes to Luxembourg to present his album, My Bluegrass Heart, published in September 2021, and part of a trilogy begun in 1988 with the album Drive, followed by The Bluegrass Sessions in 1991.

The project involved a bunch of incredible musicians, some of the greatest instrumentalists in the bluegrass history, and some of them belonging to the new generation.

In this tour, he is accompanied on stage by Michael Cleveland on violin, Bryan Sutton on acoustic guitar, Marc Schatz on double bass, Justin Moses on dobro, fiddle and banjo and the amazing Sierra Hull on mandolin.

As pointed out in his official biography, “over the last four decades, Béla Fleck has made a point of boldly going where no banjo player has gone before, a musical journey that has earned him 15 Grammys in nine different fields, including Country, Pop, Jazz, Instrumental, Classical and World Music. But his roots are in bluegrass, and that’s where he returns with his first bluegrass tour in 24 years, My Bluegrass Heart”. (Source: Béla Fleck Official Website –

It does not come by surprise that his upcoming album, Rhapsody in Blue, published on February 12th, expands and explores George Gershwin’s masterpiece, by paying tribute to the legendary composer while redefining an American classic, just in time for its centennial.

An unmissable opportunity to feel the vibes of this incredible artist who fascinates his fans each time and with no exception.

Sona Jobarteh

“Badinyaa Kumoo”

Photo:  Alfonso Salgueiro/Philharmonie Luxembourg

Sona Jobarteh kora, vocals
Eric Appapoulay guitar
Andi McLean bass
Mamadou Sarr percussion
Sidiki Jobarteh balafon, percussion
Yuval Wetzler drums

Béla Fleck

“My Bluegrass Heart”

Photo:  Eric Devillet/Philharmonie Luxembourg

Béla Fleck banjo

Sierra Hull mandolin

Michael Cleveland fiddle

Bryan Sutton acoustic guitar

Justin Moses dobro, fiddle, banjo

Mark Schatz double bass

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