Dawda Jobarteh
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Dawda Jobarteh

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"Playing with New Jungle Orchestra in the Royal Danish Operahouse, Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2005"

translated from Danish by Dan A. Marmorstein?July 2005

New Jungle Orchestra with Yusef Lateef - Operaen, July 4
by Henrik Palle, Pollitikken

There are certain special moments in life when it all comes together into a higher synthesis. "It all rolls into one", as they say. In a certain way, everything becomes divine - if we understand the divine as something that is infinitely greater than the respective individuals who bring it forth.
With one exquisite word, it is known as 'apotheosis'. And this is a very suitable term for describing what 1,500 members of the audience played witness to inside the Opera House on Monday evening, when the ensemble that is simply 'beyond category', The New Jungle Orchestra, celebrated its 25-year anniversary with the American jazz legend, Yusef Lateef, as the featured guest star. The ensemble simultaneously blew away any whiff of highbrow arty-farty high-culture opera snobbishness from the polished floor of the stage in Henning Larsen's controversial edifice.
Before the guests started to migrate in and take their seats inside the beautiful opera hall, it did look a bit too much like some kind of culture-radical get together, where the whole lot of Copenhagen's cultural elite had apparently convened for the express purpose of experiencing the opera building from within - without being constrained to listen to opera.
But then, Lo and behold, musicians started to take their positions on the stage, one after the other. And they began to play what is literally the Jungle Orchestra's boundless world music ... and the mood shifted to intense empathy.
And when the concert was over, almost three hours later, the privileged listeners straggled back out into the Copenhagen summer evening, with a uniquely cosmo-political musical experience in their luggage.
The proceedings were ushered in by the Chinese harp player, Yu Jun. On the strings of her peculiar foreign instrument, she struck up the evening's opening notes. Then the band's pianist, Irene Becker, followed suit. After this, the bandleader Dørge entered the scene and gradually the rest of the steadfast ensemble fell in.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the musicians started to brew up their distinctive sound universe, right before our eyes and inside our ears.
With quiet restraint and tranquility, the music moved from an improvisation on Chinese themes over into a sequence that unified the whole world's musical expression and simultaneously concentrated all of jazz's history.
At certain times, the saxophone section sounded like a silver-wedding anniversary orchestra on acid. Other times, they sounded like the Salvation Army Band, which was busy burning the roof off the house with an extrapolation on theme by Duke Ellington.
And all the while, it was transpiring in an intimate dialogue with New Orleans roots. In walked the Greenlandish singer, Aviaja. She took her place on stage to sing "One Morning". With her wordless vocal, she brought forth moments of indescribable beauty.
The culmination of the first set, however, presented itself when the Gambian kora stylist, Dawda Jobarteh, appeared and sparked off a sequence that virtually conjured up the Creation itself, in all its incomprehensible immensity.
Now let me level with you: I was weeping. The experience was as beautiful as that! It was like being embraced by the whole human race, like watching a baby being born, like being told the meaning of life and being too enraptured to worry about having to remember it. Fantastic, it was quite simply fantastic!
After the intermission was over, Yusef Lateef appeared on stage. With his presence, the mood swung from the orgiastic life-affirming to a more contemplative, spiritual mode which, after introductory presentations of ethereal sound-surfaces opened itself up to all the heavens in an orchestral tour de force, which mixed hermetic bop sequences with all kinds of other expressions. Dizzy Gillespie meets Hans Werner Henze at an Arab market in a situational context where genres don't even make sense anymore and where Shakespeare's words, "If music be the food of love, play on", constitute the only sufficient comment.
The soon-to-be 85-year old Lateef cut a most impressive figure - first of all, for emanating a fantastic musical energy - even when he wasn't even playing - and secondly, for having preserved a majestic tone on his flute, as well as on his tenor saxophone and his oboe.
And the rest of the outfit played with an intensity and fervor and openness and fantasy and empathy and dexterity and humor and almost brazen love for the music, so that we couldn't do anything else but bow over into the dust of admiration and simply exclaim:
Thank you for a fantastic evening, where you showed us that openness is altogether not another expression for emptiness, but rather the exact opposite.
Well, does this have anything to do with jazz? Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. - Politiken


1994 Salaam Band, “Xalatou Africa”
1995 Salaam Band, “Watoo”, Kerewan sounds
1996 Salaam Band, “Alwele wakilola”
1997 Pa Bobo, “Kaira nata”, Realworld
2004 Asafo, “Timitimi”, no label
2004 Moussa Diallo, “Der var engang…”, Diallo records
2004 Ole ‘Fessor’ Lindgren,
2004 New jungle Orchestra, “Dancing cheek to cheek”, Stunt records
2005 Mariane Bitran, “All One”, Stunt records
2007 Rainbow Spirit, Simon Spang-Hanssen
2007 Jeppe Gram, "Uppsala Dreams"
2008 Moussa Diallo, “Acoustic Groove”, Diallo records
2009 Tchando, forthcoming



Dawda Jobarteh was born in the Gambia in 1976 in a griot family. He started playing the drums at age seven and from age 12 he started to go and play concerts with his uncle Malamin Jobarteh and his cousins Pa Bobo Jobarteh and Tata Dindin Jobarteh’s Salaam Band. Around this time he also started to teach tourists playing the drums.
In 1996 Dawda was on his first tour outside West Africa in France and Germany, and in 1997 he was on a big tour arranged by WOMAD. In 1999 Dawda moved to Denmark where he is still living. In Denmark Dawda took up his family instrument, the kora and little by little made it his main instrument. Today Dawda is mainly a kora player inspired by both traditional and modern West African music as well as influences from all over the world.

1989-1994 Playing percussion with Pa Bobo and Kaira Band in Gambia with tours in Gambia, Senegal, England (WOMAD Festival), USA.
1994-1998.1 Playing percussion with Tata Dinidin and Salaam Band in Gambia with Tours in Gambia, Senegal, France, Germany.
1998- Playing kora and percussion with Pierre Dørge and New Jungle Orchestra as a regular guest at small as well as big concerts (e.g. Royal theatre The Opera House with Youssef Latif, The New House of Acting and The police Head Quarters In Copenhagen
1999-2000 Playing kora and percussion with United African Ballet of Denmark
2000- Band leader of Wakilo playing concerts in Denmark and Sweden
2000- Playing kora and tama as a regular guest with Rikke Lie Flensburg
2000 Playing kora and tama in the choir concert ‘En Verden af Stemmer’ by Irene Becker and Sille Grønbech
2000 Playing kora as a guest with Wombat
2000-2002 Continental Heat
2002 Playing kora and percussion with Tchando
2002- Playing kora and tama with Moussa Diallo and Mikkel Nordsø and Palle Mikkelborg with tours in Denmark, Norge, Sweden, Finland Tanzania, Kenya, Latvia, Slovenia
2003 Playing kora as a guest with Michael Nielsen and Fulani
2003-2006 Playing percussion and kora with Asafo in Denmark and Sweden
2003- Simon Spang-Hanssen first as a guest in Central Earth and from 2006 permanent member of Rainbow Spirit. Tours in Denmark, Germany, France
2004 Guest musician playing Kora at Hanne Boel Concert in Pumpehuset
2004 and 2007 Playing kora with Ole ‘Fessor’ Lindgren
2005 Playing kora with Toumani Diabaté in Roskilde Festival and in Mali
2005-2006 Playing kora with World Mix Orchestra in Sweden and Poland.
2006- Band leader of River Gambia with concerts in Denmark and Mali
2007 Playing kora with Basekou Kuyateh in Denmark and Mali
2008 Muktar Samba in Bergen, Norway
2008- Playing kora with classical flute duo Fata Morgana