Pre-Concert: Calabash Arts Market

Windows Pre-Concert Event:

Calabash Arts Market

Sun, April 7, 2024

5-7pm & post-show

Free with Show Ticket


The Music Center at Strathmore

Lockheed Martin Lobby 


Access to this event is free with your ticket to Sona Jobarteh

Know Before You Go

Plan Your Visit

Join us for a bustling community marketplace before and after Strathmore's presentation of Sona Jobarteh! Interact with incredible local visual artists, performers, activists, and vendors who practice and promote West African cultural arts. Enhance your concert experience by engaging with the Calabash Arts Market community, and enjoying live music pre- or post-show. 

This event was designed in collaboration with cultural convener Dera Tompkins.

Participants include:

  • Sankofa Books
  • Kelem – clothing, dolls, jewelry, hats
  • Africa Memory Game – African family board game
  • Hands on Drums – Ghana drums, clothing, artifacts
  • Zawadi Arts – jewelry
  • Scarvelous – traditional arts, home goods, jewelry, candles
  • AfroFunkWear – Denim jackets, skirts, drummers’ pants
  • Jaliyaa Coffee – Packaged African coffee and teas
  • Shiri Achu Art – prints, calendars, visual art
  • Shekere Creations by Thembi – Calabash instruments and art
  • Blue Nile Botanicals – creams, herbs, crystals
  • Healey International Relief Foundation – NGO serving families in Sierra Leone
  • Gambian Diaspora Healthcare Initiative – healthcare resources, education, and training

With performances from:

  • Jean Francis Varre – solo guitar & voice
  • DJ Underdog – DJ
  • Cheick Hamala Diabate, Docta Yew, and Rob Coltun – African music trio
  • Nakima (dancer with Cheick Hamala Trio)

  • Afrofunk Wear Logo
  • Kelem Logo
  • Jaliyaa Coffee Logo
  • Healey International Relief Foundation Logo
  • Hands On Drums DC Logo
  • Gambian Diaspora Healthcare Initiative Logo
  • Sankofa Video Books Cafe Logo
  • Zawadi Art Logo
  • The Africa Memory Game
  • Shiriachu Art Logo
  • Shekere Thembi Logo

 This event is part of Strathmore’s Windows series of performances and accompanying programs. Learn more

Meet the Performers


DJ Underdog

An expert and talentedDJ, graphic designer, educator, and community-builder, DJ Underdog is a contemporary storyteller. Whether it’s through his music, his teaching in District of Columbia Public Schools, or his community organizing, Underdog is a force for change across the globe. 


DJ Underdog has had a profound impact on the youth within and across his respective communities. Of his 11 years with the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), MoCADA said that “Through DJ Underdog's work, we are reminded of the power of the collective to transcend time and space, to ensure Black futures while honoring our past." As a graphic design teacher at Richard Wright Public Charter Schools for Journalism and Media Arts, Underdog co-founded TruSkool, a hub and home for the hip-hop community in DC. As a performer, DJ Underdog has shared stages with musical giants such as Questlove, Thundercat, Sango, and Femi Kuti, and his residencies include AFROPUNK, OkayAfrica DC, Eaton Radio and ElectraAfrique NYC. Underdog also serves on Eaton Radio’s Community Advisory Board.  


Cheick Hamala Diabate 

Washington may be chock-a-block with lobbyists and consultants, but only one of them rocks the n’goni, the West African plucked lute covered with animal skin. He advises presidents and the World Bank. He’s played for everyone from a struggling couple trying to save their marriage, to the U.S. Congress. He’s hobnobbed with American string and Blues legends—from Bela Fleck to Corey Harris—and along the way reunited his beloved instrument with its long-lost grandchild, America’s banjo.   


“The music we griots play is not just about making nice sounds for dancing, it’s about giving a lesson to people about their lives. You tell them about what their grandfathers did, and what they should do now,” explains Diabate, whose griot roots run deep as first cousin to kora master Toumani Diabate, and nephew to legendary Super Rail Band guitarist, Djelimady Tounkara. “People trust the griot more than anyone else.”  


Though Diabate may stick to the old-school roles of the griot, his music embraces the panoply of sound he discovered in America, taking him beyond the traditional trio of griot instruments: the n’goni, kora (gourd harp), and balafon (wooden xylophone).  He has long explored the connection between America’s traditions and his own griot roots. Like many American string players, including Bela Fleck, with whom Diabate has collaborated and performed, Diabate noticed the eerie resemblance of his trusty n’goni and the banjo. In 2007, Diabate’s collaboration with banjo player Bob Carlin, “From Mali to America” (5-String Productions), led to a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album.  

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Dera Tompkins

For over forty years, Dera Tompkins has been a visible and active member of the Washington, DC international music and artistic community. Her interest in the music business and focus on conscious roots reggae, as well as the political and cultural music of the African Diaspora, was sparked by exposure to the Rastafari-inspired reggae of the mid-'70s. Aware of the importance, value, and power of contemporary conscious black music, her interest and commitment to promoting and marketing reggae, and producing live performances, became a long-term mission and a natural extension of her political activism established during her college years at Howard University.


On her cultural journey, she was blessed to meet and travel with Bob Marley and the Wailers in the United States, Jamaica, and Africa, including the historic and triumphant performance at the Zimbabwe Independence Celebrations in Harare on April 17, 1980. Six of her color photos of the Independence celebrations in Zimbabwe and an interview appear in Kingston Publishers' book, "Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World," by Dermott Hussey and Malika Lee Whitney, 1982.


As the founder and director of I&I Productions, she produced the annual Tribute to Bob Marley in Washington, DC, beginning in 1982. The Tribute was the first reggae music program presented at the Kilimanjaro Club. In the following years, the African-owned Kilimanjaro Club became the premiere venue for Caribbean and African music on the East Coast.


Tompkins, also known as Sister Ikeda, hosted two reggae radio programs: Jah’s Music on WPFW-FM and Positive Vibrations on WOL. She was personally requested by Kathy Hughes of Radio One to host the first reggae program on WOL in the early '80s.


Regularly consulted for her knowledge of Rastafari culture, reggae music, and the life of Bob Marley, Tompkins appeared in the film, "Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story," a British-produced, 2000 Grammy Award-nominated documentary on the political life of Bob Marley. She also appeared on the VH1 special, "Ultimate Albums: Bob Marley - Legend."


Also serving as a talent buyer for large festivals, artist management, stage management, and marketing and promotions, Tompkins remains active on the music scene as a consultant to local promoters and most area venues that showcase the arts and culture of the African Diaspora.


Nakima Smith

Nakima Smith, a native of Barbados, is a performing artist, dancer, instructor, and budding vocalist in the DC-metropolitan area. As her granny would say, “she was dancing before she could walk.” Her  Caribbean roots lead her to a deep passion and appreciation for dance of the African diaspora, specifically the fusion of African, Caribbean, and house dance styles.  


As an independent artist in the field of African dance, Nakima has performed with such artists as Common, Malian griot, Cheik Hamala Diabate, Janka Nabay, and the Bele Bele Rhythm Collective. In addition, she is a collaborative member of the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, and was formerly with Ni Dembaya Drumming and Dance in Washington, DC. Most recently, she had the honor of going from spectator to participant in being called on stage to dance for Fatoumata Diawara at Strathmore. Nakima has also had the pleasure of dancing for another Malian treasure Oumou Sangre. 


She currently instructs African-based dance workshops and classes for all ages. Nakima's interest in Afro-fusion has led her to teaching at the Guerilla Arts Summer Program and for the Howard University Stem Program. Nakima's gift in performance and teaching energizes the crowd and inspires audiences to enjoy the healing energy of music and movement.