jalibaWhy coronating Jaliba Kuyateh, Why Now, Why Kombo Sillah, Why Bristol and why Dr Nick Maurice?

Of what difference would it make to shout at the sun with the oration “oh too hot you are”? If not but to affect lungs, it would prompt those indisposed to sunlight to look for cover or secure appropriate covering before leaving the house.

Kombo Sillah Association’s validation of an otherwise understood and accepted chair of the King of Kora would add little value to the majestic height Mr Jaliba Kuyateh has already reached, it however would help affirm and reinforce the common notion amongst the crowd that hard work always pays even at the sunset of one’s life. Not to coronate Mr Jaliba Kuyateh at this very sunset of his life would be a disservice to him and career. Kombo Sillah thinks and so too many!

The last time Jaliba and the Kumareh Band were in Bristol, Baba Dinding (Jaliba’s younger brother and the band member) in his usual and joyful mode prophesied that the amiable and convivial mooring often offered them in Bristol, is suggestive and afforded a feeling of something more to come in their way. This was in 2013 when Kombo Sillah was in its celebratory yet exhaustive mood from the success of the last show. Soonest the sedation of fatigue weaned off our veins fastidious organs were employed into long ranged plans for the subsequent shows. Unlike Sukutarians who would do a thing 9th times over and expect a different result, Kombo Sillah believes in innovation and renewal to remain vital and competitive.

In 2009, in the same celebratory fashion we extended Jaliba an honorary membership of the venerable KSA of which he readily obliged. This simple yet profound gesture was of no or little material price but provided psychological boast and fraternal affinity with the Kumareh Band. Kombo Sillah has since felt synonymous with the Kumareh Band, and thus to fail to coronate would be a dereliction of duty on our part.

But who is Jaliba Kuyateh anyway? A middle height, dark skinned, broad faced and with perfect dentition, Mr Jaliba Kuyateh was born in remote part of a world of Nyamina Dankunku of the Gambia in the late 1950s. To the griot families of Mbaye of Wollof and Kuyateh of Manding stocks whose trading commodity was to keep custody and recant the tales of families and communities for the generation and those to come, little Jaliba did not betray the heritage of the home and family. His parents of (blessed memory) have done the home work and would have been happy to see their son carry the family name and image beyond the contours of Dankunku, Gambia and Africa, and now up to Bristol –the informal capital of Kombo Sillah Association!

Little Jaliba learnt the poetic and artistic trade with distinction, even alongside his Western training. Adequately armed with the art of the ancestors, diviners did not fail to notice a unique and universal artist that would shadow not only his contemporaries but dwarf any and all in the same calling! The style, the poetic prose, the trademark platitudes and the plenitude of songs Jaliba alone produces as a Kora Maestro are a testament of this fact!

Kora of mysterious origin and place, and almost human shaped with a 21 string to keep the seeming ostrich neck in check, has been the entertainment instrument of the Manding people for generations. The simple yet complex equipment has all the musical notations in their low, middle and pitch notations which sum up to 21. For the starters, there are seven universal musical notations in the world.

Traditionally Kora does not require additional instruments to produce music of taste and quality, however Mr Jaliba Kuyateh has assembled almost all the known artistic artefacts of the people of West Africa to not only maintain the traditional instruments but to create and promote a unique blend of music that is acceptable and appealing to all the people of the region, and certainly to all the music lovers of the world.

With faith and conviction in his calling, and with extra ordinary energy, Mr Jaliba and the Kumareh Band have pulsated and gyrated at the dusty chambers and halls of nearly all the villages, towns and cities of the Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau either in celebration of people, families, communities, nations or The Divine. Listening to his Kora music from the old to the most recent reveal a unique pattern of thought; they project before us a man of culture; a man of wisdom, and a man of towering intellect with abiding conviction in the inherent goodness of human being, and ultimately a man of service.

When misunderstood by the religious clergy Mr Jaliba Kuyateh would use Kora to correctly inform with respect and calm. When defiled he would use the Kora to throw away the dust from the eyes with banter. When insulted he would use Kora to teach about the virtue of patience and forbearance for that difficult station brings one in the ranks of the most noble before the Divine, and when he reads about the trends of world events he would caution about the prospect of Fitna and the attendant consequences.

On the question of service, the prestigious accord by the UNICEF as the good will ambassador is a testament of concern for the young and those in need. His contributions to the communities and nation of birth are legendary, yet these tremendous acts of generosity did not yank him off the keel of simplicity and modesty. He is a man who best fits Rudyard Kipling’s IF:

 

“IF you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

 

On the same dusty and rancid hall of Ngallan’s Disco met Mr Jaliba Kuyateh and Dr Nick Maurice in his response to a request to come and entertain our Western visitors from Marlborough Brandt Group to Gunjur whom, we thought then, would have found solace and connection to the culture of Disco left behind. “Dokitar” as was and still often called in Gunjur and with a more serene and discernable younger brain, observed Jaliba in his trademark style, and spotted the extra ordinary ability to connect the crowd with the cadence of his Kora string.

Kombo Sillah was not born, and neither would Dr nor Mr Jaliba could have prophesied that their paths could cross again, much less at this crucial moment and unlikely place! Certainly the tapestry of destiny has to be unconsciously or otherwise trudged.

But Kombo Sillah chooses Dr Nick for the coronation for an entirely different reason. Not because we knew he himself was a witness to the Coronation of Her Majesty the Queen some 50 odd years ago, but a man whose abiding conviction in simply things would make him find value in the Brandt Report published in 1982 appropriately titled: “ North/South: A Program for Survival”; man who with few votaries, would brave the seas and oceans to reach us in the otherwise unknown place in the Coastal Town of Gunjur and extended us a hand of friendship in a truly brotherly fashion. Out of this was born the Gunjur/Marlborough Link! Aside the material benefits to families, communities, and nations, the intrinsic and demonstrable philosophy embedded in linking communities, nations and faith groups of North and South is simply utopian!

The misguided philosophies of War on Terror and the attendant zealotism of Boko Haram and ilk have long validated and vindicated Dr Nick and some other fallen heroes in the likes of Tim David that universal peace and brotherhood is only possible in recognising value in all peoples, cultures and faiths. It was for this simple reason that Dr Nick stood out amongst our listed candidates to don Mr Jaliba Kuyateh with the regalia of a King!

Kombo Sillah Association would not and cannot wait for the writers to document Jaliba’s achievements before we could crown him the King, no! Watchers of our cultural space have given all indications that the time is now or never. And we thought all ingredients are present. So we say tomorrow the 7th of June 2014, at the Trinity Hall, Bristol, at 1.ooam, arise Your Majesty the King of Kora : Mr Jaliba Kuyateh.

 

Malang Darbo

KSA Secretary

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