Renowned Gambian kora star Pa Bobo Jobarteh has been invited along with his cousin Jali Bakary Konteh to perform at the world famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival set to take place in Louisiana, USA between April 23rdand May 3rd.
Pa Bobo the brother of leading kora funk master Tatadinding Jobarteh and son of master kora player, Malamin Jobarteh and his cousin Jali Bakary the son of the legendary kora master and musicologist Alhaji Bai Konteh, based in the UK, are billed to perform in the New Orleans festival and at 11 other events in the States including the Clearwater Festival, Old Song Festival, Jewish Federation of Delaware concert, Festival International, Town Crier festival and at the Newark Public Library.
The New Orleans festival, is an annual celebration of music and culture and is held annually on the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May.
The festival, a major tourist attraction which grosses US$300 million annually for the city, features Jazz, Blues, R&B, Gospel, Cajun, Zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, Folk, Latin, Rock, Rap, Country, Bluegrass, and everything in between. It draws 55,000 people everyday for eight days.
Among the better known headlining acts for this year’s festival are the balladeer Lionel Richie, eclectic “Retro” Lenny Kravitz, Jazz singer, songwriter and pianist Norah Jones and hip hop legends Wu-Tang Clan.Pa Bobo and Jali Bakary will headline in the Blues tent seating more than 2,000 and also perform on three other stages. Performing as a duo,they are only one of two international acts chosen to perform at this year’s festival.
Pa Bobo and Jali Bakary’s trip is being organised by Marc Pevar also known as Jali Ibrima Konte Toubabo who learnt the kora from Bai Conteh in the early 1970s in Brikama, The Gambia. Pevar is credited with introducing or popularising the kora in America when he took Bai Konteh on a concert tour of the States in the early 1970s.
Pa Bobo and Jali Bakary’s fathers performed at the New Orleans festival for ten years in the 1970s and ’80s and 2020 will be the first time that representatives from The Gambia’s leading kora playing family will be performing at the festival since 1984.
Pa Bobo Jobarteh, now 44, has performed at Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD festivals across the globe including in the UK in 1988 where he performed for Queen Elizabeth inside Buckingham Palace. He also performed in Australia, Singapore and the United States (Seattle, 1997).
Pa Bobo started playing the kora at age 6 and started touring internationally at the age of 11. He has since released 10 studio albums and is a regular on Gambian radios and televisions.
“I feel emotional about being invited to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. My grand uncle and father used to regularly attend this. After all those years, following in their footstep is a terrific feeling. This will be a great occasion to showcase the kora and sell Gambian culture. The Gambia is the home of the kora and we have to sell this story to the world.
About Jali Bakary Konteh
Jali Bakary Konteh, son of Alhaji Bai Konte and son of Dembo Konte, has the native talent of his forefathers, and a full traditional griot education in music, oral history and social skills. He has performed throughout West and North Africa and Europe, and now resides in London, UK.
As a griot, Jali Bakary Konteh is a master of traditional Gambian song and story, making his living by teaching and performing. From childhood, he learned the traditional griot way, surrounded by musicians in a multigenerational family in Gambia. Because of this, he knows the traditions, stories and customs, unlike others who approach kora as a harp, and its stories as fixed arrangements.
Jali Bakary Konteh personalises traditional melodies with unique melodic and rhythmic arrangements. His bands are electrified “fusion.” They play African themed melodies and rhythms, combining African kora, balafong and drums with Western instruments like electric guitar, bass, keyboard and drum kit. Happy, upbeat, celebratory dance music. His exceptional talent gives him both flexibility and musical originality. This flexibility allows Minyanta to play everything from Afro-Mandinka beats, rock, funk, reggae, jazz, ska, salsa and blues.
– 1993 Toured Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Morocco with Jali Pa Bobo Jobarteh
2002 Solo and duets with Jali Pa Bobo Jobarteh, and Salaam Band. Started regular shows on Radio Gambia and Gambia TV, with his father, Dembo Konte.
Pan-Africa Music Festival (51 African nations), Tripoli, Libia, representing Gambia
– 2002 Performances with the Salaam Band and Sofa Nyama Band
2014 performed both solo and with the Salaam Band at festivals in Kartong, Gambia, as well as Abene and Kafountine, Senegal, with the Kaira Band.
2014 Built Konteh Kunda School of Music, in Brikama, Gambia, a traditional griot school in his extended family compound, to preserve the Griot cultural heritage, music and dance.
Moved to London, performing in clubs, started Sofa Nyama (fusion band), appeared at Mila, Norway’s International Music Festival, visits his griot school several times each year.
WOMAD Festival in UK with Bafula Band (fusion band); BBC-Africa interview
London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, solo performances
Bloomsbury Festivals and Resonance Radio FM, with Bafula Band
UK festivals: Tropical Pressure, Africa Utopia Festival (Southbank Centre, London)
– 2019 WOMAD, solo Kora Workshops at WOMAD festival and Cwm Maddoc Barns, Wales UK. SUSSO band, toured Scotland, Cornwall and Brighton, sell-out show Archspace Theatre, London. Relaunched band Minyanta, Koko Theatre and Rich Mix Club (London)
Jali Bakary Konteh and Minyanta played: The Jazz Cafe´ (London); Roskilde Festival, Denmark; Amsterdam Roots Festival, Holland; The Afro Banana Republic Festival, Cyprus; Meadows in the Mountains Festival, Bulgaria.
Solo: Walthamstow Folk Festival; and, Vibrantly African Wellness at London’s Africa Centre. Duo with Bass player Huw Bennett: Archspace, Saint Mary’s Hall, Walthamstow Festival, and Antara Jazz Festival, all in Metropolitan London.
Teaching and demonstrating griot music, traditions and culture: The Horniman Museum, the Ismaili Centre, Guys Hospital, 2018 (and 2019), Chelsea-Westminster Hospital, Nne Agwu Afrakan Storytelling Festival, African International Day (representing The Gambia)
Soloist at fund raisers: Kaleidoscope Goes Gambia, Hackney Alchemy Early Years, London Fields, Redmond Centre and, Fashion Slays Cancer.
Minyanta band, festivals in: Stans, Switzerland; Luxemburg, Denmark, Germany
2010 Konteh Kunda, Jali Bakary with the Konte extended family band, released by Akwaba Records 2019 Two new albums are currently being mixed in-studio
About Jali Pa Bobo Jobarteh
As oral historians, Mandinka Griots connect contemporary life with the past through song and story. By speaking out, they preserve civil balance, tradition and morality. After two decades of dictatorial rule, Jali Pa Bobo’s song “Peace, Love and Unity” reminded people that they were not alone in their silent yearning. With a price on his head, Jali Pa Bobo fled to Senegal. After the people elected a new leader, the former ruler tried to stay in office. Seeing the people were united against him, he left without violence. Jali Pa Bobo came home a national hero.
Pa began to play Kora at 6. His international career started with a European tour at age 11. Ever since that time, he is heard frequently on Radio Gambia and Gambia TV (GRTS). He is popular for telling and singing the traditional Mandinka ballads, for creating new songs that resonate with popular national aspirations, and also as a social commentator. In that role, he champions respect for the less-abled, and advocates that mothers nurse babies to improve childhood health. His song Peace, Love and Unity is played daily on Gambian radio and TV, as a de facto second national anthem.
In 1988, when Jali Pa Bobo Jobarteh was only thirteen years old, the rock star Peter Gabriel began inviting him to perform at huge international festivals with coverage on TV and radio. These were Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD FESTIVALS (World of Music Arts and Dance). Since then, Jali Pa Bobo Jobarteh performed at WOMAD festivals in: United Kingdom, in Cornwall, Reading), in Senegal, Singapore, Portland (USA) and Australia. By age 22 Pa recorded Kaira Naata for Real World Records.
Major international festival performances
1988 WOMAD, United Kingdom, Reading and Cornwall
1997 WOMAD, UK and USA (Seattle, WA)
1998 WOMAD, Singapore and Adelaide, Australia
1999 African Trade Fair, Tripoli, Libya, representing Gambia, with President Jammeh
2003 Senegal tour with rap band Tim Tim Mol
2004 Gambia tour with Kaira Band
2005 United Kingdom performances in Brighton, Sheffield, Hebden Bridge
2006 – 2019 Toured Gambia and Senegal two times each y2ear
1997 Womad Select (WSCD103)
1997Kaira Naata (Real World Records, UK)
2000 2001 2003 2003 2006 Duwa (Pa Bobo and The Kaira Band)
Pa’s hit song, Peace Love and Unity album released Gambian Radio and Television
Featured Kora player, album by Senegalese rap band, Tim Tim Mol
Pa Bobo Unplugged, acoustic, solo album
Pa Bobo and The Kaira Band
2012 Gambia, Pa Bobo Jobarteh and Tom Toomey (Zombies lead guitar) & Montfi Cats
2014 Respect, Pa Bobo Jobarteh and The Kaira Band (single release)
2015 Pa Bobo Laato Dinding, Soundcloud
2017 New Gambia, Pa Bobo Jobarteh and the Touba Kaira Band
2017 Jaliya, streaming via Bandcamp
2019 Mansa Kunda, Pa Bobo Jobarteh and the Touba Kaira Band