Although to meet him it might not be obvious, Dawda Jobarteh takes his griot heritage very seriously, and as the grandson of Alhaji Bai Konte and son of Amadou Bansang Jobarteh, he is at the epicentre of The Gambia’s musical aristocracy.
Bai Konte was responsible for some of the classic kora repertoire still played today, and one of the first players to tour the USA as a solo artist. Amadou Bansang Jobarteh was the favoured musician of Gambia’s first president, Dawda Jawara, after whom Dawda is named.
But hereditary musicians from West Africa are not exactly uncommon, so what is it about Dawda that distinguishes him from his peers?
Dawda was not, at first, a kora player and even today his instrument is one acquired after he'd left the land of his birth, The Gambia, and settled in Denmark. Dawda learned his music sitting at the feet of his uncle Malamin, playing the calabash. And perhaps it is this training as a percussionist, only coming to the kora later and on his own terms, which makes his music so distinct.
Another factor could be the range of collaborators with whom Dawda has performed and recorded over the years. From the Salaam Band in The Gambia while still in his teens, through to featuring with jazz pioneer Pierre Dørge, and on to leading his own groups today, Dawda has absorbed a range of influences that cover a whole gamut of musical styles. Thus he is as comfortable with a traditional composition which dates back hundreds of years, as he is with hooking up his kora to an effects box and turning the volume to '11'.
Dawda’s home is now firmly in Denmark. Here he has married and set up house. Here he has swapped the wedding and circumcision ceremonies that his uncles Malamin Jobarteh and Dembo Konte performed in rural Gambia, for educational tours of Scandinavia with bassist Moussa Diallo, or free-jazz perfomances with drummer Stefan Pasborg. Here with his own group he has appeared at rock festivals such as Roskilde, and from here he has ventured around the world onto stages in East Africa and clubs in New Delhi, India.
Dawda Jobarteh's perfomances honour his past, are rooted in the present and yet always look to the future.
The press wrote about his Dawda Jobarteh's live performances:
“…there is good reason to show up and experience a world musician of dimensions … with his beautiful and atypical baritone voice ... and the exquisite kora playing with meditative and acoustic elements as well as full speed and a pedal attitude as Eddie Van Halen.”
"...a well-played and virtuous show fully underlining his kora-abilities. At the same time it was a life-affimning hybrid of the Gambian rythmics and instrumentation while Nordic melancholy was expressed periodically through a deeply felt experience.”
The press wrote about 'Transitional times':
“You will find very few kora records where the possibilities of this wonderful instrument are explored more thoroughly
than they are here”
“There's a breathtaking range of music here … and every second of it is absolutely beautiful” Pop Matters
The press wrote about I Met Her By The River:
"...Jobarteh has absorbed all the virtuosity and values of his ancestors. But on 'I Met Her By The River' he takes his griot heritage into bold new territory on a kora adventure that is both audacious and thrilling."
"This is a very fine record by a master musician."
The Evening Standard