ABJ School Of Music | Sona Jobarteh

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The Gambia’s first specialist school for the
integrated study of Traditional Music and Academia


The Amadu Bansang Jobarteh School of Music was founded by Sona Jobarteh in 2014. It is the first school established in The Gambia to offer the integrated study of music and academic education. Specialising in the area of Manding Music (one of West Africa’s oldest surviving musical traditions) the school not only cultivates knowledge and expertise but also generates pride in the culture and traditions of The Gambia among its students.

Many youngsters in The Gambia are now drawn to the growing predominance of mainstream popular music coming from the West. The role of the ABJ School of Music is therefore both unique and vital in encouraging young Gambians to study their own musical traditions in an environment dedicated to inspiring a high level of creativity, pride and excellence amongst its students.

Social Issues, Health and Nutrition

Our impact extends from our students to the communities to which they belong. With the help of our students, we are developing outreach projects that educate families about diet, nutrition, healthcare and practices that are harmful to the community. With the development of our school facilities we will be able to cater for those who are inspired to take up training courses in any of these areas.

The school seriously addresses the important issues surrounding health, nutrition and harmful practices that continue to survive in Gambian society today such as child marriage and FGM. The school uses ingenious ways to sensitise students by integrating these topics into practices that the children employ everyday at school. For example maintaining strict hygiene; dental care; practicing gender equality; and encouraging open discussion about issues that affect the student's daily lives. In this way they are led to understand that they each have the direct ability to make change in their lives and the society at large by engaging with issues critically with an instilled confidence to find solutions.

Nearly half of the students are orphans, and the rest come from families that cannot afford to pay for their children to attend school. Sona funds the whole school herself from her personal resources, thus enabling each and every student to attend the school for free.

Students are selected on the basis of their musical talent. The school then works intensively to bring their academic education up to a high level. Many students have little or no literacy skills when they join the school, however after 6 months, all students are reading and writing.
We engage both our students and the local community in agriculture and farming through the cultivation of our land where we have a range of crops already growing. Not only does this support local employment but it will also provides a means for us to engage and support the community in ways of developing sustainable living.


We offer courses to overseas students in traditional Manding music and instruments. Our courses range from short intensive studies of a week, to longer courses that can be integrated with volunteering and working with the school between 1 and 6 months. The instruments we specialise in are Kora, Balafon, Djimbe, dance and singing.

We provide all the learning materials you will need to study at the school with us which includes instruments and equipment. You will have your own tutor who will give you one-to-one lessons on your preferred instrument, as well as access to workshops which include the whole school and other international students. During these workshops you will have the chance to try out other instruments which will help to broaden your overall exposure and knowledge of the tradition.

The School is situated conveniently in Kotu, a very central location which is a short distance from hotels, and amenities. We have limited acommodation available, so please enquire to find out if we have spaces available. In the event of being full, we are happy to facilitate getting acommodation arranged in nearby hotels or guesthouses.

The school is interested in partnering with universities to enable students to continue and expand their studies at the same level in Africa. Sona has been engineering a new curriculum that uniquely brings the tradition into the institutional setting. It is the first time that these traditions are being formally institutionalised which is essential for their preservation since the social structures that protected and propagated these traditions for centuries are no longer in place. Due to the nature of this social change, as well as globalisation much of the valuable traditions are being lost. With Sona’s curriculum in place there is the means to pass on these traditions to the current young generation as well as open up to collaborate with overseas students and professionals who are inspired to learn about the tradition.

Sona is therefore interested in collaborating with universities in two main areas - to take on overseas students and to collaborate on developing new areas of the music curriculum in the country.
Our Aims

We are working steadily towards reaching our goal of expanding to becoming the first institution to provide full time courses in music, the arts, media and management to students of all ages.
We have been be pooling our resources to set up The Gambia’s first Cultural Archive which will comprise of recordings, books and the documentation of Gambian history and culture. This will be made available to the public to enable the current generations to have easy access their cultural archives. Many old recordings are wasting away in local radio stations and are not easily accessible. This Archive is an important means of encouraging Gambians to engage with their rich culture and appreciate the country’s assets rather than to default to dominant influences from overseas. Through supporting and re-enforcing our cultural identity we are laying the essential building blocks for the country’s international cultural industry.
How Can You Help?

Since our opening just over a year ago, we have put a lot of money into the renting of a school premises. This expenditure takes finances away from key resources we need such as teaching materials and student amenities. We are hence working hard to realise our aims of developing a permanent school premises to give students and teachers the proper space they need. Accommodation for our overseas students is also a vital part of our development plans. This will not only overcome the very difficult and off-putting aspect of their daily transportation, but will also support the valuable income needed for the self-sustainability of the school. We have now secured enough land in the beautiful sea-front village of Kartong to house the school campus and accommodation comfortably, and are now seeking the financial support to begin the construction of the school premises and accommodation.

The current physical facilities of our school are now fast falling behind the rising demand from keen prospective students, partners and volunteers from all over the world. Over the past 6 months we have had volunteers working with us from Spain, USA, Russia, Nigeria and Brazil. We have already started working closely with universities and schools from Mali, Germany, Tanzania, Ghana and Ireland to establish an exchange programme which entails students from these institutions coming with their tutors to complete parts of their study-programme at the ABJ School whilst in exchange offering valuable training in specific areas of expertise to our students, local staff and members of the wider community. Once the facilities to support exchange programmes and international students is set up, the school will encourage cultural tourism and international expertise to The Gambia and by so doing will provide Gambians with an institution that will centralise and raise the standards of the arts, culture and media industries in the country.


We are always keen to welcome volunteers to join the ABJ School team. We are open to a wide range of skills that you may be able to offer. We are particularly interested in those who have experience teaching in English, Maths, Science and Geography.

We are looking for volunteers with enthusiasm, creativity and lots of initiative to join our school community and add to the vibrant atmosphere which we cultivate for our children. We like people who can think outside the box who are not afraid to come up with their own fresh and exciting ideas to bring to class.

In return, volunteers will have the opportunity to study with our experienced teachers on any instrument(s) of their choice for the duration of their time at the school. We ideally like our volunteers to be with us for a minimum of 1 month in order to allow time to assimilate into the school and to bond with our children. Accommodation is offered, however spaces for this are limited. Please enquire to find out availability.

Here are just a few ways you can get involved:

Make a regular or one off donation to the school
Fundraise for the ABJ School of Music
Volunteer at the ABJ School of Music
Raise awareness amongst your circles
You can contact the school with any enquiries on: info@abjschool.org

You can also visit the website: www.abjschool.org

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