Tag Archives: Dawda Jobarteh

Delicately-crafted Contemporary and Traditional Visions of the Kora

Dawda Jobarteh – I Met Her By The River (Sterns Africa, 2019)

Denmark-based Gambian kora maestro Dawda Jobarteh showcases the many faces of the kora and his multidimensional influences on I Met Her By The River. The album includes delightful original and traditional solo kora pieces such as “I Met Her By The River”and “Karang Folo”.

On the song “Begging Boys”, Jobarteh decries a certain type of Quranic school found throughout Gambia and Senegal where part of the daily occupation is to beg on the streets. The boys are found dirty, hungry and with worn-out clothes.

Another side of Jobarteh is showcased through modern, charming ensemble pieces with lead kora, bass and West African and global percussion.

Jobarteh provides a tribute to Denmark by transforming “Jeg Gik Mig U Den Sommerdag” (“I Went Out On A Summer’s Day”), a well-known Scandinavian melody into a lovely tune with skillfully-crafted kora overdubs and cymbals.

Dawda Jobarteh – I Met Her By The River

There is also a cutting edge electric kora version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue,” bringing together jazz fusion, Afro-Cuban and Gambian music.  

The lineup includes Dawda Jobarteh on electric and traditional koras and vocals; Souleymane Faye on vocals; Preben Carlsen on bass; Jacob Andersen on percussion; Salieu Dibba on percussion; and Stefan Pasborn on drums.


Kora Delight

Dawda Jobarteh – Transitional Times (Sterns Music, 2016)

All too often kora music evokes the image of lacy traditional African tunes that fall into the elegant or quaint category, but Gambian kora player and composer Dawda Jobarteh firmly pulls out the rug under that notion on his second release on the Sterns Music label entitled Transitional Times, following up on his 2011 release of Northern Light Gambian Night.

Continuing the esteemed Gambian musical tradition of his grandfather Alhaji Bai Konte and father Amadou Basang, Mr. Jobarteh has stepped up and out to conjure up a first class recording by way of Transitional Times by incorporating his traditional roots to mold and bend the boundaries of the kora.

Often sleek and sophisticated, Mr. Jobarteh’s compositions and kora work dip into subtle jazz sensibilities or the sharp edges found in expressive jams that leave the listener breathless, but still returns and immerses music fans into that wonderful kaleidoscope of lacy notes of traditional kora, a pleasing diversion for both old and new fans.

Opening with the solo kora track “Winter Trees Stand Sleeping,” Mr. Jobarteh dazzles listeners with this artful, neat composition. But Transitional Times doesn’t waste any time before turning the mood with the stylishly expressive “Our Time in Tanjeh” with fellow musicians Preben Carlsen on guitar and Salieu Dibba on percussion.

The recording just gets better with the addition of the sadly soulful “Efo” with Mr. Jobarteh on kora, electric kora, vocals and tama drum backed by Mr. Carlsen on acoustic guitar, Nana Osibio on bass and Niclas Campagnol on drums. Transitional Times throws in the infectiously pleasing traditional tune “Kaira,” arranged by Mr. Jobarteh.



Wonderful things happen on the John Coltrane composition “Transition” as Mr. Jobarteh is joined by Etienne M’Bappe on bass, Jakob Dinesen on saxophone and Mr. Campagnol on drums. Equally wonderful sounds are evoked in a track about the perils of discrimination called “All One,” where joined by Alain Perez on bass, Mr. Campagnol on drums and Mr. Dibba on percussion, Mr. Jobarteh’s composition and vocals come out as almost a hymn like prayer surrounded by subtle jazz edges.

“Jamming in the Fifth Dimension” is explosively keen edged with just electric kora and percussion. Add into the mix the sweetly jazzy “Lullaby Med Jullie” with vocals provided by Julie Hjetland Jensen and Transitional Times is everything its title promises to be.

Mr. Jobarteh continues to dazzle with rich tracks like the traditional “Mama Sawo,” the percussive wonder “Kanoo” and the graceful tracks “Presenting the King” and “Dalua.”

Listening to Transitional Times find its depth of vision by way of Mr. Jobarteh’s willingness to step into other genres and across traditional paths is a delight. Transitional Times is one of those must have kora CDs.