Dembo Jobarteh, an African griot
In the old days African griots were court musicians. They sang the praise of their renowned leaders, thereby telling the history of the region. Nowadays their services are still sought after. They sing the history of a tribe or family at naming ceremonies, weddings and other social and religious occasions. To learn the enormous quantity of traditional songs and to master the melodies and rhythms that go with it, they have to study for many years.
Dembo Jobarteh was born on June 7, 1976 in the village of Niani Kayai in The Gambia. Niani Kayai is situated on the north bank of the river Gambia, not too far from Janjanbureh (formerly known as Georgetown). His friends Moussa and Maudou were born on the same day. Together they spent many days hunting in the bush and fishing in the river Gambia.
When Dembo was 9 years old, his parents sent him to live with a marabou, a very wise and well-respected man. He studied the Koran and kora, and worked in the groundnut and rice paddies. Later the family moved to Serrakunda, the biggest city in The Gambia, and Dembo found a job at a bakery. But no matter what he was doing, his musical training continued. He learned hundreds of songs and also studied the drums, balaphone and singing
In 1994, Dembo became a professional entertainer. He quit his job at the bakery and went to Dakar, Senegal. He played kora in restaurants, on the beach and in the tourist market. After two years he came back to The Gambia. There he founded the Gambian Griot School of Music and Dance.
Dembo 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.
Dembo Jobarteh is a member of a famous African griot family. He is a nephew of Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, the famous kora-player who became well known for his album Tabara. Another famous family member is Malamini Jobarteh, father of Tata Dindin.
Dembo and his parents. His father Alimammeh plays kora; his mother Numukunda is a singer.