Interview: “Why My Costume Is Shredded Fresh Plantain Leaves”
Jato Sonita, 14, a songster, student and passionate farmer, in her first ever interview, revisits how she shot into national music limelight in 2021. Through her video of Witty Minstrel’s award-winning song, “Be Proud!” Propelled by the ingenuity of her
Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am Jato Sonita Kfukfu. I am 14 years old. My parents are Njini Derick Jato and Jato Valerie Luna. They are both farmers in Binka village, Nkambe Central Subdivision, Donga-Mantung Division of the North West Region. I live in Bambili with my aunt, Njang Patience. I spend much time on farming, having grown up in the rural farming community of Binka. I am also a Form Four student in the Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology, CCAST Bambilii, near Bamenda.
How were you attracted to music? When did you start singing?
I was encouraged to sing by my grandfather, Njini George, who had a radio on which he loved listening to the music of Eboa Lotin. As I grew up, I was impressed by the music of Charlotte Dipanda, Afo-a-Kom and other folk or traditional music artistes. You won’t believe it, I started music at the age of five! This was back in my village, Binka. But things became more serious as from the age of 12 when I began using the microphone to perform at small events. As early as that age, I was already doing performances in school, acting sketches at school graduation ceremonies, Christmas parties, etc.
How many singles and albums have you done so far?
I am still to studio-record any single or album of my own. All the songs I have done were for competitions and for other occasions. But I am working on my first album that will contain 12 tracks.
I have an unrecorded song, “Ngaatfu” (witches and wizards), which is my personal composition. I have also done “Elimba Dikalo” by Eboa Lotin, “Mota Benama” by Bebe Manga, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens… Next, I intend to do “Mon cousin militaire” by Donny Elwood and “Lean On Me” by Akon.
Recently, I did a song, “Tribute To Baby Kimora,” in memory of Carolouise Ndialle who was killed in Buea. As a little girl, I believe Carolouise had a great future ahead of her. That is why I did the song. I am happy it is getting good public response on my Facebook page.
I see myself as a young girl using her culture to reach out to the world; to show the world how beautiful culture is. I was lucky to be connected to “Kids Hall Of Talents Foundation.” It has been helping to push my music career by nurturing and bringing out the talent in me.
Tell us about your group. How many members do you have? What are their ages?
Our music group is known as “Kids Hall Of Talents Foundation.” The Chief Executive Officer is Mr. Emmanuel Banyong, who is also my mentor. The group promotes young talents. My team is made up of 10 kids. The youngest member is 1 year, 8 months old. The others are 3 years, 5 years, 7 years, 9 years, 10 years, 11 years and 12 years old. Each time I have an assignment, I select kids whose ages match what I want to do.
You and your group have a unique way of dressing. You also select exquisite settings for shooting your videos. Why so?
We shoot our videos in the forest because I love nature, and I also get much inspiration from it. Nature is a great source of inspiration to me - to compose songs and perform them. This explains why our costume is entirely from nature – shredded fresh plantain leaves. The costume is also a reflection of the rich culture of Wimbum people of Donga-Mantung Division in the North West Region.
What kind of music do you do? When did you shoot your first video?
I do cultural, folk or traditional music; and African music in general. I did my first video, “Be Proud!” in 2021.