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Jali Madi Kanuteh reveals ‘the truth’ in exclusive interview
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Jali Madi Kanuteh reveals ‘the truth’ in exclusive interview

Born in Latri Kunda German in a popular griot family, Jali Madi Kanuteh is one of the few singers in The Gambia who makes real music. He started his career in 1999 with the rap group, Askan Bi.

Recently, Jali gave the world one of the best albums in the history of Gambian music. He succeeded in bringing back what music truly is.

Read below our exclusive interview with the afro manding star:

What’s On-Gambia: What artists did you listen to when you were growing up and what about them that appealed to you?

Jali Madi:I was listening to my dad, Banna Kanuteh, Salifu Keita and Youssour N’Dour.  These are the artists that are at the level that I want to reach. Their music is the best and their arrangements are proper. My father was writing music, arranging and he knew a lot of history on African music. My father travelled a lot.

Where is your dad now?

He passed away since 1995.

Is your mum also into music?

No he is not that much into music. She lives in the USA. Her name is Sainabou Tunkara, she was a dancer for the Gambia National Troupe. My dad was the head of the troupe.

When did you write your first song and what was the title?

My first song was Mam Jarra. Then I was a rapper and this was in 2000. It was produced by Hakim. I was in Touba, Senegal and got inspired. I believe in Sering Touba and always read about him. He was a good man that promoted the teachings of the prophet.

A Senegalese friend of mine helped me when I was writing the text for the Mam Jarra song. Music is hard, and is always good to look for advice from others.

Jali Madi

What do you remember about playing your first gig?

It was at LK school, and it was a very nerve racking ordeal. Just imagine the first time on stage in front of hundreds of people. I was shaking like a leaf. But it went well, Alhamdulillah.

How would you describe your music?

The music I play now is a modernized afro music. If you listen to my album you will hear all types of genres. I like mixing all types of music to entertain all music lovers. But my main area is modern afro.

Which song of yours would you say is your favorite and why?

The song is Jali Madi. I want to show people that I did not enter the music scene by accident. I found my dad singing and it is something deeply rooted in our family.

In your opinion, what is the single most difficult challenge Gambian musicians face today?

We are not paid adequately, and this is what is holding our music back. Music is expensive. Just imaging spending D10, 000 on recording a song and you’re paid D2, 000 to perform.

How can you progress? This is totally unfair and no one seems to care. For example, I have a band and I have to pay them. There is also transport and other logistics involved. What the promoters are paying us is very small.

The most annoying thing about our promoters and event organizers is that they always want to determine how much to pay you. And if you complain, they say you're getting too big for your boots.

How can the music industry progress when we still have monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.

Jali Madi

But how united are the artists to improve your situation?

At the moment we are not united. But may be in the future things will change. Some new artists just want to perform to be seen, and they don't care about the money. I hope they will come to realize that music is expensive and they should be paid for their service.

Why did it take you long to release your debut album?

The music I do is very hard. It is not music that is programmed. My music is different, and that is why it took time. I also have a band and that requires adequate rehearsals.

Where was the album recorded?

It was recorded in Senegal. I went with my band.

Why did you name the album, Gambia?

The whole Gambia was expecting an album from Jali Madi. The expectations were 'too high', and the songs are originally Gambian. Jali Madi is Gambian, and my band members are Gambians. So the whole album is 100% Gambian.

The launching was well attended. How did you manage to gather such a crowd?

It was a team work. I have a management team and supporters who contributed. So many people were involved and that is why the crowd was big. Thank you to all of them.

How much money did you make?


Is it true that you had a problem with your band after the launching?

There was no problem, it was only a misunderstanding. I just spoke to them few hours ago. You know how money can create problems sometimes.

Whose idea was it to sell the album on iTunes?

My management was behind it. The aim was to make the album available to Gambians in the Diaspora.

Are you signed?

I am signed by Joluv Arts.

What are the benefits?

Everything is based on percentage. They did a lot for me. They gave me a car, a house in Manjai Kunda and they always arrange concerts for me both in The Gambia and abroad.

So Joluv Arts is spending a lot on you?

To be honest, they are doing a lot for me. I am happy to be under their management.

You just left Finland after a successful performance at the Waaw Festival. Can you tell us about it?

I did not come purposely to perform. I only came to see how they organize the festival. Next year I am coming back and I will be one of their main acts. Already I have met some local artists and people in the Finnish music industry.

Is Jali Madi single?

No! I am never single! Very soon, I will surprise Gambians. Jali Madi is getting married soon.

Who is the lucky girl?

In The Gambia, that is all I can say.

What is next on your agenda?

Now my target is the international scene. There is more money abroad. In The Gambia, I have already established myself, so now is time to take my music outside.

My next album is going to be international. We have already started talking with some of the big artists in West Africa to do collaborations with them. The aim is to produce an album that has an international appeal.

Who are you favorite Gambian artists?

Trobul Smallz, Gee, ENC and OG Log...I have lot of stars even Killa Ace I like his music.

Jali Madi thanks for taking your time to talk to What's On-Gambia.

You always welcome!


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