The newly crowned Gambian King of Kora has granted an exclusive interview with Kairo Radio.
In the said interview, Jaliba Kuyateh recalled how he had built long and lasting friendship with the late Yaya Jarjue when the duo met in Gambia College in Yundum. The duo’s opportunity to live in the same college dormitory was an opportunity for them to bond in their ardent desire to use the Kora, Manding’s 21-string mystical instrument, to effect social change in the Gambia. As educationists, Jaliba and Yaya teamed up to stage countless number of free shows across the country to raise money for school projects.
Jaliba was grateful to have Yaya Jarjue in his life. “Yaya used to instill fire in me. He would damn me if I composed any song he was not satisfied with. He would tell me “this is not the song of Jaliba Kuyateh I know.” I would be forced to strive hard to produce the best song,” King Kuyateh told Kairo Radio, explaining how he admired Jarjue’s God-gifted voice and singing skills. “I appreciated Yaya’s very appealing voice and intelligence. He was one of the best in our Kora Committee.” Yaya did the narrations for most of Kumareh Band’s songs, including Nelson Mandela.
Jarjue, the man who hailed from a non-griot family, had been dispirited by continuous public ridicule for his association with Jaliba Kuyateh and the Kumareh Band. Jarjue was discouraged for not being promoted in the teaching profession. “I did my best to keep him in the band but Yaya could not survive the ridiculing being meted out to him and family,” Jaliba said. “I even composed some songs to tweak the society’s non-essential beliefs. This was meant to appeal to Yaya and his detractors that there is no difference between acorn and coos, for they both serve as food.”
The Kora King also spoke about his difficult and trying times. He cited the sudden death of his brother Lamin Kuyateh which almost devastated him. “Lamin’s death was too hard for me to accept. It happened at a time when my career and fame started picking up,” Jaliba said. Jaliba used the more than three hour interview to explain reasons for composing some songs to instil sense of unity and understanding in a society that believes in caste system.
Born in Niamina Dankunku in Central River Region, Jaliba attended Crab Island Secondary School and later Gambia College. Jaliba worked in the tourism industry before becoming a qualified teacher.
King Kuyateh’s full interview with Mohammed Lamin Sillah can be heard on Kairo Radio today Saturday. While Yaya Dampha and Suntou Touray took care technical backup, Musa Saidykhan did the production.