With Mamour M. Mbenga

‘Best of Swiss Award’ winner, King Kora, on his music career and plans. King Kora

The Switzerland based Gambian Kora player, Lamin Jobarteh, aka King Kora, who won the ‘Best of Swiss Award’ in 2006, is currently visiting The Gambia on holidays and also to promote his music and undertake some projects.

He had an interview with Foroyaa Art and Music Column and dwelled on his history, career and future plans.

“The purpose of my visit to The Gambia is to meet with my family and promote my music I also want to organise shows to support national development efforts,” he disclosed.

Talking about the Award, King Kora said this was won courtesy of his debut album, entitled ‘King Kora’, which consists of ten tracks. He said the album was released in 2002 and has sold one million copies worldwide.

King Kora said his second album, entitled ‘Bundung’, which was released in 2005 with eleven tracks, has also sold three million copies.

On his third album, ‘Mandingda’, he said it was released in 2007 has songs that focus on the realities of life. He noted that this third release is a collection of songs by different artists from Senegal, Swiss, USA, South Africa and The Gambia.

Explaining the history of his career, King Kora said he started playing music in the early 90s when he was at age 16 and was inspired by his late father, Amadou Joof Jobarteh, a renowned Kora player and traditional singer, who was also part of the then national ensemble, ‘Gambia National Troupe’.

Talking about the future of Kora music, he called on all the Gambian Kora players and other traditional musicians and music stakeholders to come on board to support efforts aimed at promoting traditional African music. “These musical instruments form part of the beauty of our culture and heritage,” said King Kora.

On his biography

King Kora was born in Serekunda in The Gambia on 14 February 1966. After completing his secondary education in The Gambia, he proceeded to Senegal in 1991 where he studied Musicology Ecole Des Arts in Dakar for seven years.

While studying both the theoretical and practical aspects of music in Dakar, King Kora said he met with many leading Senegalese musicians/singers, and was performing with them on ‘Mobile Sound’ shows at Guediawaye, a suburb in Dakar. He said he also played with artists such as Assan Mboob, when the latter was a Bongo player, way back in 1992. He said they are best of friends and have staged numerous musical events together.

King Kora said the Senegalese super star Baba Maal has also invited him to train and perform with his ‘Dandelignol’ Band, as well Ouzza, another Senegalese artist. He said faced with all these invitations to stay and work in Senegal, he finally decided to come back home and work with the veteran Gambian musician, Musa Afia Ngum, who appointed him as the Band Leader.

In the early 90s, King Kora met with a friend called Alagie Secka, a Gambian based in Swiss, who proposed to him to join them and which he accepted. He said Secka then linked him to one lady called Mariam, a pop singer, who financed his trip to Switzerland.

While in Swiss, King Kora met with another Swiss saxophonist called Rodger and that they worked together and recorded a demo tape. The two later formed a band called King Kora, which comprised eleven members.

King Kora became well known when he was signed in 1991 by ‘Reek Reek’, a Swiss based music label, to produce three albums which were recorded at ‘IAM Studio’.

In 2007, the Swiss Arts and Culture body awarded him a cash price of 100,000 Swiss Francs to conduct a tour in The Gambia and other African countries. He disclosed that in the same year, he also produced a video documentary called King of Gambia in collaboration with Star TV and was meant to promote eco- tourism in Gambia. A similar tour, he added, was repeated in 2010 and which took him to Burkina Faso, Senegal and The Gambia and he co-performed with artists such as the Senegalese female artist, Masaneh of ‘Waflash’.

King Kora, who has spent two decades in Zurich, Switzerland, is being managed by Mandingmory Entertainment in The Gambia. He can be contacted at these numbers: 9988328/ 2015524 or email: