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Momodou Sabally’s encounter with Jaliba Kuyateh (Part II)
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Momodou Sabally’s encounter with Jaliba Kuyateh (Part II)

 

Monday May 25th was going to be just another day in my life until I took my regular walk around Senegambia Hotel towards the beach. Just as I took the bend toward Monkey Park, I heard some plaintive voice soaring above the notes of a solemn kora tune. I paused and the lyrics were flowing: “Kwame Nkrumah Faata Africa keeday taa…” (since Kwame Nkrumah passed away; Africa is lonely). Wow, I thought, what a song for such a day!

I asked one of the tourist guides nearby, “who is this artist singing and what is the occasion?” he told me that Jeunesse OAU, a pan African youth organization had invited Jaliba Kuyateh for a concert on African Unity. I was impressed; I decided to go to the concert at Kairaba Hotel and by the time I reached Jama Hall, the song had now changed as Jaliba lamented “Arabu doo woning na Africa, n nyan ta den na nyoe la leh...fitina yeng silandi…” (The Arab world and Africa need to unite and; I fear chaos…). I remembered this song of Jaliba sang in the 90’s, I recalled, where he calls for unity in the Arab and African world because the wars being fought in these territories are planned and instigated from outside these regions.

I was ushered into the hall where they gave me a front seat against my desire because I did not want to come close to Jaliba. When the maestro saw me, he frowned. Then I saw celebrity journalist Nfally Fadera go on stage and whisper in Jaliba’s ears; that was when Jaliba looked towards my direction and smiled; there and then, the Kora maestro changed his tune and literarily started playing the Kora with his teeth; the last time I saw him perform such dazzling feat was some 30 years ago at the village center in Lamin called Loobaato; where, playing the song for the Brikama football team Saraba, he used his teeth to strum his kora.

The sound from the Kora went into a crescendo and then Jaliba’s voice rose above the tune, “Radio kang-kang, a kibaari siyaa jowta; ning doe mu tonyaa ti jamaa mu foeri kenseng ti , hey moe lu woe..”; this song also took me down Memory lane about Jaliba lamenting the spreading of false news in town. As he concluded this song, Nfally Fadera walked up the stage, went straight to the podium and started speaking in Mandinka:

Eh, m baading Mandiko lu and aning a kang moilaa lu, n teh leng , ali baading maa Nfally Fadera…

After the greeting, he called his friend and senior colleague Alieu Khan, of online magazine What’s On-Gambia (WOG). When Alieu went on stage Nfally then called me over and I stood between Alieu and Jaliba. Then Nfally continued in Mandinka with the following clarification:

A few weeks ago, online magazine What’s on-Gambia published an article entitled “Momodou Sabally’s encounter with Jaliba Kuyateh.” This piece of parody caused a lot of uproar both online and in our homes and places of meeting. I just wish to explain that this piece was not made up by WOG, it was an article written my Momodou Sabally in the same spirit that he did many others for the Standard Newspaper years ago including the titles “Conversation with Imam Fatty” and the very popular “Conversations with Sheriff Bojang”. Sabally even did one for the Standard titled “Conversation with Jaliba Kuyateh” with a view to promote the kora maestro’s music.

When Nfally was done, Jaliba held my hand to say thank you but before he could step back I produced my manuscript (completed some 2 years ago) and handed it over to him “Strings of Wisdom: Commentary on Jaliba Kuyateh’s music”. The smile on Jaliba’s face was brighter than any moon I had ever seen. He took his kora and started a song; it was a song for my wife, Jai Sarr.

It was the force with which I pulled a wad of 100-Dalasi notes from my pocket that sent my elbow hitting Jai’s arm. When I woke up she was till screaming “aai!!”

Momodou Sabally,

The Gambia’s Pen

Sabally is the author of several books, including “Strum Your Kora: Conversations with Macky Sall”. He plans to publish his manuscript “Strings of Wisdom” later this year. The May Edition of New African Magazine features his guest opinion column on the deadly migrant boat disasters at the Mediterranean. He has just started a new blog on Tumblr “Light for African Youth” (LAY): www.tumblr.com/blog/thesabally

 

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