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 & groundnut fields. He would
also hunt in the bush & fish in the River
Gambia along with his childhood friends Moussa &
Maudou. At the age of 9 his parents sent him to
live with a Marabout to learn the
& the 21 string Kora.
Three years later
he moved on to another village and worked in the
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
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.