Taj is a towering musical figure—a legend who transcended the blues not by leaving them behind, but by revealing their magnificent scope to the world. Quantifying the 77-year-old’s significance is impossible, but people try anyway. A 2017 Grammy win for TajMo, Taj’s collaboration with Keb’ Mo’, brought his Grammy tally to three wins and 14 nominations, and underscored his undiminished relevance more than 50 years after his solo debut. Blues Hall of Fame membership, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association, and other honors punctuate his résumé. Taj appreciates the accolades, but his motivation lies elsewhere. “I just want to be able to make the music that I’m hearing come to me—and that’s what I did,” Taj says. “When I say, ‘I did,’ I’m not coming from the ego. The music comes from somewhere. You’re just the conduit it comes through. You’re there to receive the gift.”
Preserving her musical past, Sona Jobarteh innovates to support a more humanitarian future. The spirit of Sona Jobarteh’s musical work stands on the mighty shoulders of The West African Griot Tradition; she is a living archive of the Gambian people. With one ear on the family’s historic reputation, one on the all-important future legacy, and her heart in both places, she is preparing a place today for the next generation. Her singing and Kora playing while fronting her band spring directly from this tradition. The extent of her recognition today is evidenced by more than 23+ million watchers on YouTube and beyond. All this despite singing in her native languages and keeping to her own path within the music industry.
“Sona 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” – Robin Denselow, The Guardian