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Dembo Jobarteh
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Dembo Jobarteh, the Kora Musician, was born in 1976 (d. March 15, 2008 ) to a locally well known griot (Gewel) family in the Gambian village of Niani Kayai. While being brought up in the village he laboured in the rice and groundnut fields. He would also hunt in the bush and fish in the River Gambia along with his childhood friends Moussa and Maudou.

At the age of 9 his parents sent him to live with a Marabout to learn the Koran, and the 21 string Kora.

Three years later he moved on to another village and worked in the local bakery. At the relatively early age of just 18 years became a professional Kora player and jali. He later moved to Dakar, Senegal where he worked as a musician. In 2001 he moved back to The Gambia and set up as well as managed The Gambian Griot School of Music and Dance in Faji Kunda.

The musical influences of Dembo Jobarteh are Youssou N'Dour for his distinct voice and other Kora players namely: Kandia Kouyate, Prince Diabate, Dembo Konte and Amadu Bansang Jobarteh (his uncle). Amadu Bansang became well known for his album Tabara. Another famous family member is Malamini Jobarteh, father of Tata Dindin.

A couple of years later Dembo Jobarteh recorded a CD 'Listen All' in 2003. Except for 4 of the tracks which were traditional Gambian pieces the rest were written and composed by him. Accompanying his music are four women singers called Sira and Fatoumata Suso, Majo Sakiliba and Jessy Jobarteh.

Maybe because of his youth and upbringing in modern-day Gambia he has showed a willingness to branch out and collaborate with other genres such as the rap band the Dancehall Masters. This was his first release of a CD over the Net. He also has no qualms in incorporating the English language in some of his compositions.

His second album, released in 2005, was titled
Gambia Banko. Again the album contains a rich variety of well known traditional songs as well as his own compositions. Some of the tracks feature the djembe.

Dembo's third album is titled 'Roots'.

Before he died he had said "I'd like to live in the U.S.A. for a while like Foday Musa Suso" he says. "To hear Cajun in Louisiana, the Blues in the deep south and Hip Hop in Chicago. To go to Cuba and beat the drums to a hot Salsa. To record with other artists, like Youssou N'dour. To bring my music to all those people outside my country. That's why I named my first international CD Listen All. Gambia Banko is a tribute to my country and its people..."

He had hoped his cd's would get him in touch with music lovers and musicians from around the world. His dream was to travel to Europe and the U.S.A. Although he taught many students from around the globe, this dream will never be fulfilled. Dembo died of chronic malaria on March 15, 2008, at his home in Fajikunda, The Gambia.

Links & Official Website:
Gambian Griot School of Music

Listen All 2003
Gambia Banko 2005



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