Dembo Konte: Gambian Griot Kora Duets
The hypnotic, delicate sound of the kora, the harp-like instrument strung on a halved gourd, has been a trademark of West African music for centuries. Gambian Griot Kora Duets (1979), featuring the master player Alhaji Bai Konte and his equally influential son Dembo Konte and Ma Lamini Jobate, is a remarkable recording that documents an evolution in the kora’s use in the traditional music of the Gambia. The album, made in Dembo and Alhjai Bai Konte’s living space, shows the musicians incorporating complex, polyrhythmic arrangements. Though these musicians are intrinsically linked to the Jali tradition of griot families in West Africa, in which kora players are the historians and record keepers of local cultures, these recordings, with their stylistic flourishes, marked a new beginning for international interest in the kora. Dembo Konte went on to tour internationally, performing on John Peel’s legendary BBC program in 1989 and collaborating with the influential group Mustaphas 3.