This evening, we need to acquaint you with a performer named Sona Jobarteh, who acquainted us with the lovely sound and story of a centuries-old instrument called the kora.

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 It's a string instrument from West Africa, part of a melodic custom that traces all the way back to a thirteenth century domain and has been passed down rigorously from father to child,

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one man to another, in an exceptional arrangement of families from that point onward.

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Sona Jobarteh was naturally introduced to one of those families, called griots. The girl of a Gambian dad and an English mother.

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 In her exhibitions all over the planet, and in her work off-stage, she says she is keeping custom alive through the actual demonstration of breaking it.

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Take a listen, as we did, to Sona Jobarteh as she plays the kora. With its 21 strings, played by just four fingers, two on each hand, it has a sound both foreign and familiar.

Sona Jobarteh: I don't actually compare it to anything because it's normal for me, right? I compare other things to the kora.

The tradition goes back to the 1200s, when a kingdom called the Mali Empire reigned over a large swath of West Africa, the territory of several modern-day countries.

The musicians and storytellers in the empire were men called griots, who counseled kings, resolved conflicts and passed the legends down orally through the centuries.