I Met Her By The River


There is a quiet confidence to I Met Her By The River, Dawda Jobarteh's third album for Sterns Africa. While the kora master's technique is prodigious, it's always subservient to the song. And although the songs contain beautiful moments of contemplation, they are never facile or saccharine. Their beauty and intricacy connote no loss of power or slackening of intent. The excellent support of his longtime friends and sidemen notwithstanding, this new album is definitely the work of a singular artist. Jobarteh's repertoire choices reflect both his birth and history in Gambia and his life and home in Denmark. In songs such as "Karang Folo" and "Sidi Yella", you hear the musician who is the grandson of the world-renowned kora player Alhaji Bai Konté; the youngest son of Amadou Bansang Jobarteh, the favorite musician of Gambia's first president; and the nephew of Dembo Konté and Malamini Jobarteh, the kora duo that Sterns first recorded in 1985. Elsewhere you hear other traditions and styles that Dawda has effortlessly absorbed into his own. "Jeg Gik Mig U Den Sommerdag" (which translates from Danish as "I Went Out On A Summer's Day") has a Scandinavian melody that dates back at least to the 17th century and words set in the 19th century, and has since become a perennial summertime favorite in Denmark. But Dawda Jobarteh has more than two sides to him. A world traveler, he appreciates the multifarious cultural influences beyond his personal West African-Northern European axis, and so it shouldn't be surprising, really, that he plays Mongo Santamaria's jazz classic "Afro Blue" on an electrified kora, or that he delivers an exquisite rendition of Adele's multi-million-selling pop hit, "Hello". And then of course there are his own highly original songs, such as the album's title track, a wistful kora solo, or "Begging Boys", a clear-eyed, heartfelt piece of social commentary. Dawda Jobarteh is, after all, a 21st-century citizen of the world -- as everyone is. I Met Her By The River, the third album by the Gambian composer, has been described as "absolutely beautiful", "a gorgeous synthesis of the old and the new", and "a joyful noise from a man right at home in very different musical and geographical places."