Music: The Phenomenon Called Jato Sonita

The peculiarly-clad young crooner shot into instant fame in 2021 through her video of Witty Minstrel’s award-winning song, “Be Proud!” By ingeniously adding lyrics, colour, sights and sounds from her rich cultural roots.

She does not yet boast any great personal compositions. And so, for all intents and purposes, is a novice on the scene! But this has not hindered her from carving a niche in Cameroon’s entertainment industry. And from dreaming big - especially in traditional or folk music-making. Fortunately for her, the chance to thrust her craft onto national – and perhaps international recognition – came calling in 2021. When Jato Sonita, now 14, released a serenade YouTube video of Witty Minstrel’s celebrated song, “Be Proud!”

“It is a great track in which Witty Minstrel featured celebrities like Magasco, Vernyuy Tina, Awu, Kameni, Gasha, Mr. Leo, etc,” Sonita recalls. “It was no surprise that he won an award for “Be Proud!” at the 2021 Canal d’Or music awards in Douala. I also did the video in Lamnso, English and Pidgin English; and then added lyrics in my language, Limbum,” she explains.

“In my version, I sing that some people make fun of my costume of shredded fresh plantain leaves, but I am proud of it! I’m proud to eat maize “fufu” and huckleberry, our staple dish. I am not ashamed of what I eat and my costume because they all reflect my culture,” says Sonita, also an avid farmer.

“Culture is so important; this is the main message in my version of “Be Proud!”  It is the same message Witty Minstrel had in mind,” she reiterates. Before adding, “I am so happy with the achievement. The public loves the video so much! In fact, the video has made me what I am today! Before 2021, the public had not seen or heard much about me,” she acknowledges.

Today a member of “Kids Hall Of Talents Foundation,” Sonita’s creativity was quickly spotted by the group’s Chief Executive Officer, Emmanuel Banyong - who is also her mentor. “My group is made up of 10 kids. The youngest 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,” Jato reveals.

“You won’t believe it, I started music at the age of five!” Jato remembers. “That was back in my village, Binka. From the age of 12, I began using the microphone to perform, do sketches at school graduation ceremonies, sing at Christmas parties, etc,” explains the Form Four student of the Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology, CCAST B...

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