About

Welcome to the Konteh Kunda School of Music in Brikama, Gambia!

Konteh Kunda is the family compound of the famous Konteh griot family in the Sanchaba region of Brikama, Gambia’s musical and cultural heart. Griots are hereditary musicians/historians/storytellers/mediators/entertainers/praise singers whose craft is passed down generation to generation, father to son, and mother to daughter. In Mandinka culture, the griot holds a very important part in society as they are the link between the past, present and future. This tradition is sadly starting to die out, and we don’t what it to die.

Konteh Kunda School of Music has 3 main goals:

1) to preserve griot culture and oral tradition in Gambia by providing a space and financial assistance for passing on the rich Mandinka culture and music to the next generation of Gambians,

2) to help the prolific musical talent in Gambia in finding a world stage and to bring their music to the masses, and

3) to provide a school for foreign students who want to learn the kora, balafon, jembe, african dance, and any other aspects of Gambian culture.

Last year Steve Pile and Jali Bakary Konteh, the school’s founders, raised $11,500 to begin the school’s construction through Indiegogo.com, an online crowd funding site. The foundation and walls were erected in March and April of 2012. This year we are trying to “Raise the Roof” before the rainy season kicks in, in early May. The estimated cost of this phase will be $10,000.

You can donate anytime through our Paypal donation link. We are currently looking to partner with a non-profit organization in our field to maximize our impact and to help our generous funders with a little tax write off. In the meantime we can offer you our thanks, or as they say in Mandinka, A Baraka!

We are all connected, and by helping to support the Konteh Kunda School of Music you’re helping preserve not only Mandinka culture, but the collective musical heritage of the world.

Meanwhile visit and LIKE us at facebook.com/kontehkunda.

A Baraka!

Description:

Konteh Kunda is the family compound of the Konteh Family in Brikama, Gambia. They are a “Jali” family, which means they belong a the caste of Mandinka musicians/storytellers/historians/praise-singers/advisors, which can trace its history back 800 years to the glory days of Soundiata and the Mali Empire.

Alhaji Bai Konteh, found here on Wikipedia, was the first Jali to introduce the Kora to American audiences with stateside performances and his acclaimed, “Kora Melodies From The Republic Of Gambia, West Africa,” released on Rounder Records in 1973. His son, Dembo Konteh continued in his footsteps and toured internationally with Kausu Kuyateh for many years. Dembo’s son and musical heir Jali Bakary Konteh, is the co-founder, with Steve Pile, of the Konteh Kunda School of Music.

The Story of the School, as told by Steve Pile:

While in London in 1999, I checked out an Ernest Ranglin show, expecting to hear his unique Jazz Reggae blend. Instead, he and his trio were joined by a 10-piece traditional Senegalese band. There was a slew of mysterious instruments playing intensely syncopated music on stage. I was blown away.

A little detective work led me to Lucy Duran, West African music scholar at SOAS in London. She had a contact in Brikama, Gambia who was a Kora legend. The kora was one of the amazing instruments I’d heard on that stage. It is a West African harp. I made a few calls and was on plane south within the month to stay with Dembo Konteh.

After a few introductory Kora lessons, Dembo turned me over to his son, Jali Bakary, and I became his first student. Jali and his crew quickly became my close friends, and I experienced the exhilaration of a cross cultural musical friendship. My three week trip raced past, and I swore I’d be back soon.

Seven years later, I finally made it back, armed with solar panels and a laptop. We recorded Jali’s debut album, Konteh Kunda, which was released in 2010 on Akwaaba Records, followed by an EP of Remixes of the song “Combination.”

I was Jali’s first student, but certainly not his last. In fact, the universal spirit of musical adventure has led hundreds of people from all over the world to Jali’s home at Konteh Kunda since our first lessons. It is a large compound, in various stages of disrepair. The poverty rate in Gambia is 58%, and you can see this reflected in the upkeep on the compound. However, Jali is always happy to give up his bed for a budding kora student from abroad, and his generosity has inspired me to give something back.