Who was Tatadindin Jobarteh?
World music fans will need no introduction to this artist, nor to the famous Jobarteh clan based in the town of Brikama, The Gambia, West Africa. Hailing from a distinguished lineage of Mandinka ‘Jalis’ (praise-singers, the keepers of traditional history & oral law). Tatadindin Jobarteh, the eldest son of Malamini Jobarteh, & grandson of legendary Keluntang Jobarteh & Alagie Bai Conteh, began to study the Kora (the West African 21-string ‘harp’ crafted from the Calabash fruit or gourd) from the age of 5 years.
Traditionally attached to Noblemen in the region, the Jali would accompany them on their travels, advising audiences on modes of behaviour based on indigenous customs, as well as lauding the Aristocrat’s great deeds. In this way, the great history of the Manding Empire, (stretching from Mali to modern-day Guinea Bissau) was passed on from generation to generation.
Tata’s childhood education was divided between secular, Quranic & learning the many skills incumbent on a typical young Jali student. From a young age, Tata has performed as a solo artist, with his Salaam band, with family members and later on in his career collaborated with European musicians such as German pianist Hans Ludemann. Based in Europe since 1992, his talent has earned him a secure place on the World circuit including appearances at WOMAD festivals worldwide in the UK.
Battling a mysterious illness for over two years resulting in being amputated below the knee in one leg, Tata wasn’t deterred in fact that reignited some new energy which he pours out in his latest album “KANO” which was released domestically in The Gambia in April 2017. KANO meaning Love in the Mandinka language is also the lead single of the album. A very emotionally charged song, KANO talks about having unconditional love for others when they have any form of disability such as Blindness, Deafness, & Physical disabilities.
Tata said “The album KANO is very special to me because it contains great songs that have a lot of my life when I was very sick for a long time. During my recovery, KANO was the first song I composed and it’s about my identity because I was amputated below the knee so now I became physically disabled but thank God am not mentally disabled”.
Tata has often represented his country The Gambia, from Hamburg to Havana, Zurich to Zanzibar, performing and leading workshops in between many recording & session projects. Tata’s activities to date include his debut album released in 1995 ‘Salam-New Kora Music’ (WSN) followed by a series of interesting projects over the years, in particular – inclusion in ‘Ambiences du Sahara-Desert Blues(NM), Stern’s ‘Generation Boule Fall – Streets of Dakar’, The Rough Guide to the Music of Senegal & The Gambia’ & ‘Kairo – Sounds of The Gambia’ followed by a live album with Hans Ludeman – ‘Piano meets Kora’ (RISM), ‘Trio Ivoire’ (ENJA) & sessions on Senegalese artist Magou’s hit album ‘Africa-Yewul’ (WSN).
In late 2005 Tata joined André Heller’s magnificent Circus Afrika! Afrika! production, touring throughout Europe & selling to date more than 2.5 million tickets. As the most popular musical act from a cast of 150, he was one of 3 artists selected for the successful German feature film ’Back To Africa’ based on the Circus which launched in 2008. After that, Tata also featured in a short ‘sabbatical’ from the Circus to take part in the Klangwelten Festival of World Music on tour in Germany.
His follow-up album ‘Kanaké’, (‘Don’t Do It’ in the Mandinka language as well as the name of a German Anti-racism Movement) was recorded in The Gambia & UK. It highlights a new level of personal & spiritual development of Tata’s journey, against a rich cultural & Islamic backdrop. Collaborating with musicians from across the spectrum, including Fulani ‘Riti’ player & 2008 BBC3 World Music Award winner Juldeh Camara, this 12 track project with its haunting melodies & fusion of Classical African, Middle Eastern & Western instrumentation demonstrates a new level of maturity that will surprise existing fans, & Inshallah, win over many new ones.
The campaign behind the KANO album rejuvenated Tata’s publicity and 2019 saw more grassroots and diaspora support with exposure to new music fans. As promised, Tata released his latest studio album on 7th December at Pencha Mii Hall in The Gambia to a sold crowd of two thousand people. December 28th 2019 saw Tata make his debut appearance at The Open Mic Festival at the Independence Stadium, The Gambia’s most revered festival. Ending the year on a high and welcoming a new decade, Tata was honoured to close the 2019/2020 Abene International Festival in the Casamance region of Senegal on January 1st 2020.