ABJ School Of Music | Sona Jobarteh

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The Gambia Academy of Music and Culture is Sona Jobarteh's pioneering vision, set to be the first cultural centre in The Gambia. She dedicates a huge amount of her time to this enterprise and revolves most of her musical career around the development of this institution. Her Academy will offer unprecedented opportunities to both local and international artists. At the heart of this institution lie the values of preserving and advancing tradition, cultural exchange, and what Sona is hugely passionate about: social development.

Sona founded the Junior Department of the Academy 2015 and named it after her late grandfather and master griot, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh. Since then it has gained rapid success over the past three years, offering specialist musical education alongside a full academic curriculum. Students of the school have performed and showcased at numerous national events, and were recently visited by the President of Germany during his state visit to the Gambia in December 2017. There are 14 members of staff and 22 students attending the Junior Department, aged between 8 and 18, each carefully selected by Sona for their musical potential. Nearly half the children are orphans and all come from families unable to pay school fees for their children, so Sona supports the entire school and its running costs herself. The Africa Festival in Germany has recently sponsored Sona to pay for the salaries of her school's local staff for two years.

Based on the rapid success of Sona Jobarteh’s “pilot” Junior School Department she is now well on the way to transitioning into founding The Gambia’s first Cultural Academy. This will be a centralized hub for the education of both children and adults, national and international in the areas of study relating to Music and Culture, whilst also providing social development opportunities for the local communities.

The site of the Academy in Kartong puts it in a perfect location close to the beach, whilst being closely connected to the rural community. The Academy will offer courses to both national and overseas students, benefiting from on-site accommodation. The project is now at development and funding stage, and we are reaching out to partner organisations, individuals and funders to come on board this pioneering enterprise.

The Academy is made up of 6 main departments, each dedicated to a specific area of artistic and cultural development. We are interested in sponsors and partners who would like to support a specific department of the campus, rather than the overall project. In this way we aim to achieve the full potential of each department of the Academy campus, by developing each department separately with its own sponsors and partners selected according to their interest and expertise.


The Junior Department has been running with huge success for past two years, and is the first specialist music school in the Gambia to offer the integrated study of Music and academic studies. Founded and run by the renowned musician, educator and social activist Sona Jobarteh this is the first school of its kind in the country. 

>Specialising in the area of Manding Music (one of West Africa’s oldest surviving musical traditions) this school promotes and cultivates knowledge, expertise and an innate pride in culture and tradition amongst the young people of The Gambia. Traditionally music is taught within families, however nowadays many musicians have moved to work, teach and perform internationally thus leaving the next generation at home without people to offer them structured tutorship. This broken structure within musical families has led to young picking up instruments without a grounded knowledge of the repertoire or history, as well as an increasing number turning towards other genres of music such as R&B and Hip Hop as a result of the lack of inspiration to pursue traditional music.

Many schools across Africa offer children the chance to study music, yet consistently orient themselves in western musical forms. Music Departments in schools within The Gambia offer studies in violin, piano, trumpet etc, and the study of traditional music is at best marginalised to occasional workshops outside of school hours. This systematic marginalisation of children’s cultural and musical heritage during the formative years of their lives only reinforces the lack of pride in the culture that we see in later life. This school overhauls this system and brings traditional culture and history to the forefront of children’s education in Africa.    
Want to get involved?
We are keen to welome volunteers to teach academic and music studies at the Junior Department. Click on the button below to learn more...

The Music Department is split into two spaces. One is dedicated to the Junior members of the Academy: the ABJ School of Music students, the other is dedicated to the Senior and visiting members of the Academy. The Junior Department is situated among the academic buildings on ABJ school side of the campus. 

The department will feature 6 dedicated classrooms for the study of West African instruments which will include the Kora, Balafon, Ngoni, West African-style guitar, Dundun, Djimbe and the Mandinka Drums. Singing is also offered as a specialist study. Instruments such as the electric bass, drum kit and piano will be offered as a second study for students alongside their primary instruments. Each classroom will be equipped with a full set of instruments, custom-made for the school and its students.

This is situated on the other side of the campus, offers services to both mature students, international students and professional musicians. The department is dedicated to training aspiring musicians as well as supporting them to produce music to a high level of excellence. The facilities the Senior Department will offer will include:
  • A recording studio and production services
  • Manufacturing and artist branding services
  • Fully equipped practice rooms

  • Want to get involved?
    We are keen to connect with people who can offer advice, expertise, partnerships or contacts for the development of the Music Department of Sona's Academy. Whether you are interested in developing a curriculum, donating equipement, offering advice, or volunteering to teach students, we welcome you to share your expertise and get touch with us by clicking on the button below:

    The Dance Department will offer The Gambia's first professional dance studio, with dedicated flooring, full length mirrors, and changing/shower facilities. The construction of a professional Dance Studio is a vital part of the development of dance as a dedicated art-form in the country. Many talented dancers reside in the country, however the area of dance as a specialist art form is under-developed due to the lac of facilities, opportunities and projects that centre around this area of expertise. In addition to offering dance classes to students, The Dance Department will encourage numerous projects to take place, including exciting collaborative ventures with international dance masters and choreographers to work alongside dancers and dance groups within the country. The construction of this Studio will mark an important step in the development of dance as a specialized form of artistic expression and creativity in the country.

    Want to get involved?
    We are keen to connect with people who can support the development of this pioneering new Dance Department which will be the first of its kind in the Gambia. Whether you are a choreographer interested in developing young dancers, a designer who can assist with the layout of the dance studio, or you wish to donate equipment please get in touch to let us know how you can help by clicking on the button below:


    The Film Department will be built on level 2 of the recording studio block and will feature an editing suite and screening facility. This department is dedicated to the provision of training in camera skills and editing, inviting international professionals to share their expertise and training with local talent. Courses in filming and editing will be offered to both senior and junior students at the Academy. The film department aims to give rise to a host of talented film-makers and to support the growth of a film industry within the country, raising the standards of locally produced films.

    Want to get involved?
    We are keen to connect with people who are interested in offering their expertise in the development of the Film and Multimedia department. Whether you are a film-maker, photographer, editor, we would love to hear how you may be able to contribute. We are particularly seeking people to assist with curriculum design, equipement donation and teaching courses in editing, photography and film-making. Click on the button below to get in touch:



    The Library is a stand-alone building situated in a quiet side of the campus. Reflective of its purpose to preserve and educate, this building will be constructed using renewable and recyclable materials. The Library will host educational books and resources for the junior department of the Academy at one side. The remainder of the library will be specialised in books and resources on African history, literature, culture, music and art.

    An essential aspect to this library is that it will house the first open-access digital archive for old recordings of traditional music from all over Africa. This section of the library will work in conjunction with a programme to digitize old recordings currently held in radio and personal archives across the country.

    Want to get involved?
    We are keen to connect with people who can support the development of this new facility in the country. If you are interested in archiving, digitising, donating books, artefacts and educational materials, gathering resources or donating equipment please get in touch with us by clicking on the button below:



    This concert hall will be the first dedicated acoustic live music venue in the country. It will be built to accommodate up to 80 people seated, or up to 120 people with the seating removed. Currently The Gambia offers a stadium and a range of smaller venues, however none are built to international standards which accommodate the acoustic complexities of acoustic instruments.

    The hall will be used for a range of purposes including ticketed performances from international artists, lectures, masterclasses, screenings and school performances selected to showcased to the public,. The hall will have two changing rooms, a backstage area and a separate access for visitors which will be used for public performances. A visitor car park will be located behind the building.

    An acoustic concert hall is a very important asset not only to the academy but more importantly to the progress of the music industry of the Gambia. Not only will it raise the standard of acoustic performances by providing a venue that will showcase the instruments at the their best, but it will also raise the bar for acoustic sound engineering in the country, offering training and work experience opportunities for aspiring engineers. A venue such as this will open up a range of collaborative possibilities by attracting more specialist artists from all over the world to come to The Gambia to perform at a high quality venue.

    Want to get involved?
    We are keen to connect with people who can offer expertise in the design features of the concert hall, as well as live sound engineers interested in curriculum design or volunteering to teach. We are also seeking the donation of live equipment, chairs, instruments, stage equipment, lighting and props. If you want to get involved, please click the button below:

    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. Your donations not only help us support the children's education and daily running costs, but also will go towards realising Sona's vision for the first Music and Cultural Academy in the country.

    We are very keen on welcoming  volunteers to our Junior school to assist with teaching our young students aged between 8 and 18 years. We currently have a total of 22 young students, and once the campus develops we will also be able to offer courses to mature students.
    For more information on the different volunteering opportunities at the school please click here:
    We are keen to connect with anyone interested in volunteering their expertise in areas that relate to the development of the Academy. Some of these areas include:
    Graphics designers
    Sound engineers
    Acoustic designers
    Film-makers Archivists
    You can contact the us with any enquiries on: info@thegamc.com

    You can also visit the website: www.thegambiaacademy.com

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