Dembo Konte

b. 1942, Banjul, Gambia. A son of the late Alhaji Bai Konte, regarded by many as the greatest master of the kora (west African harp) of recent times, and certainly the musician who did most to introduce it to an international audience, Dembo Konte is maintaining both the family tradition and the detailed tribal histories that are contained within the Konte canon of songs. Tours of the UK in the late 80s alongside Kausu Kuyateh (b. 4 January 1953, Bounkiling, Casamance, Senegal), with whom he has recorded a number of albums, brought major acclaim, throwing off some of the critical baggage associated with his family ties. The best of these was arguably Simbomba, which featured the presence of 3 Mustaphas 3 in addition to Kuyateh on a pleasing collection of duets and songs conducted in the familiar casamance style. In 1995 they were invited to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival along with Mawda Suso a balafon player (a traditional wooden xylophone). The trio went on to record Jaliology with producer Hijaz Mustapha. In 1998, Ian A. Anderson’s label, Weekend Beatnik, released Kairaba Jabi, which featured a selection of tracks from the duo’s, now deleted, first two albums, plus the previously unreleased title track (recorded in 1994). This album offers the best introduction to Konte and Kuyateh’s raw but accessible brand of traditional kora music.

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