Momodou Sabally’s encounter with Jaliba Kuyateh

Written by Momodou Sabally

Jaliba Kuyateh

On a cool Saturday evening I walked into the studios of the budding talents G-Star who were doing the final touches to their album; they wanted me to grace this day with my presence having recently approached me to be their special adviser.  I was looking forward to meeting a group of young men but was startled when I saw an elderly figure with a Kora singing with the G-Star team. I quietly sat down waiting for the recording of that song to end so that I could confirm the presence of the guy whose voice I clearly recognized but was surprised he would be at this place. When the recording stopped and the elderly guy turned toward me, I knew it was him! I stood up to greet him:

Sabally:Jaliba, e nimbaaraa…

Jaliba:Sabally Sattako, bari faamoe keta…

Sabally:yes it has been a long time since we last met at the launching of your album last year at the Senegambia beach Hotel. Oh what an event it was. I think you attracted a crowd of almost 1000.

Jaliba:Oh why do you have to lie if you do not know something just ask. Who told you it was a crowd of only 1000?

Sabally:Oh, Jaliba, am sorry if you feel offended but that was just my innocent guess…

Jaliba:Guess? Why guess when the source of correct information is standing right here in front of you. You see, it is because of people like you that I sang this song “Radio KangKang”, people who just peddle around lies and half truths, spreading rumours and confounding society, slandering people. Such a terrible thing you guys do in our society…

Sabally:Oh my God what is this Jaliba? I thought you are a gentleman. Why do you have to insult me just for making a guess of what the attendance was during your last album launch; I have written so much about you and your music and I did not ask for a butut in this.

Jaliba: Well if you wrote about me maybe it is because you want to be famous. I know that none of your books have ever been read by a thousand people. My albums are listened to my millions of people in The Gambia and abroad. So you are playing smart here writing about my music so that you can attract a large following while pretending that you are helping me; Arrogance is a disease…

Sabally:Ah well Jaliba I thought you would be grateful for what I have been doing for you presenting you as a philosopher when you are an ordinary griot.

Jaliba:Did you just call me an ordinary griot? You must be crazy. What is your problem young man?

Sabally:Ah actually Jaliba I don’t think talking to you is worth my time but I remember this song you played last year during your programme “ning meng yaa kandin-di e teh yaa sumayaandi” so if you want to be angry you go ahead and heat up your temper, I will remain calm, I believe in the wisdom you transmit through your music. So why don’t you practice what you preach…

Jaliba:Hahaaaa, look at you my brother, such a petty little politician. Come over here and give me a hug…

Sabally:Yea, now you would want to hug me because I quoted your lyrics and yet you just dismissed my works as an author…

Jaliba: See; you’ve started again. Why are you trying so hard to draw a parallel between my music and your writing?

Sabally:Hahaaa! I wrote in my book Instant Success:  “You must also dress for success. Do you remember the old cliché on judging the book by its cover?”

Jaliba:well that really sounds very inspiring but how many copies of that book have you sold?

Sabally:why do you need to know my business statistics?

Jaliba:can you just answer a simple question? You can write a whole book but you find it difficult to answer a simple question. You are really one weird guy.

Sabally:well if you must know I sold about two thousand copies to date.

Jaliba:Poor boy. I sang this song called “Paray” where I serenade the people who have given me gifts of the colourful batik gagnilla. And in that song I advise people to take care of their appearance because your dress can elevate your rank in society or diminish your status. Yes I even said in that song that some scholars say that in the next world if Paradise is not full God will fill it with those people who dress well. And this album has sold in the tens of thousands. So whose teachings about dressing is more effective, you or me?

Sabally:Well that really sounds interesting; I just found your reference to paradise a bit disturbing. Can you please leave God out of this?

Jaliba:you know young man I once told you that I am a Jali woliyo  but it seems you do not understand that.

Sabally:Oh you see, you need to be humble though, may be I can refer you to my book Instant Success where I mention in verse: a fat head that raises you high/will tumble you down and crush your might.

Jaliba:Sabally muna ka malu what can you teach me about humility? More than two decades ago when you where a kid, I sang these verses on humility: fanto wara baa dunuyaa kono bee nafaaa taa la hadama dingo lu, nyunu bay mu londi ntang yaa ti… (Pride is of no use and it is but the product of ignorance so let us seek knowlegdge). Why don’t you go and seek knowledge yourself. If I were not humble would I have taken my precious time to come and record a song with these young novices in the art?

Sabally:Well yes definitely you are right Jali. You deserve respect and commendation.

When I wrote the last line of this conversation. I leaned back in my study and thanked God for the gift of imagination to do a conversation with Jaliba Kuyateh at the mental realm.

Momodou Sabally
The Gambia’s Pen