My Recollection Of The Late Jali Mbye

I met Alagi in 1982 in Tallinding through a Teacher friend of his named Junkung Saidy. For some reason, they all (Alagi, Demba Kanfing Dibba, Modou Kolley, uncle Balaya, ‘Jack’ Jadama, etc) call Junkung ‘June-July’. He was a superbly talented Jaliba. He would play Lalo Kebba songs flawlessly. If someone passes by and greets, and the last name is called out, Alagi would drop hints about their origin, history, and where they’re found mostly, etc. It is fascinating. I was enthralled.

And on several occasions, when they were going to visit someone for ‘Sumungho’, I would tag along. Once we went to see one of their friends in Bundung, a colorful character who never bothered to hide his Jamba addiction. He kept lighting up even as we all listened to Alagi. He also had other issues I wouldn’t venture into. Before Alagi started playing, he told the fellow to behave himself. Alagi himself was a chain smoker back then. I feel heart-broken, but having seen him recently on GRTS, I’m more shocked than surprised by his death because of how he looked on TV. Back in ’82, he was interested in getting into the National Troupe which was headed by a fellow named Chaw if I recall right. His main helper/lobbyist was the man’s girl friend. The woman lived just two compounds from the gate of the Tallinding Islamic school then headed by a short Bangladeshi everyone called ‘Mudirr.’ Alagi stays with Junkung whose brother owned the compound on the diagonal side of the quad-block.

The irony here is, Alagi’s lobbyist who was a member and one of the main dancers of the National Troupe is from Cassamance. So, we had a young and outstanding Gambian Kora maestro going through a Senegalese to try to get into our National Troupe! And he didn’t succeed. Alagi’s friends kept telling him, the boss probably thinks he was more than platonic friends with the young lady. Like I tell folks, if you want to understand how Yaya Jammeh took over from Jawara easily without bloodshed, ask how things were in the Jawara heyday. I’ll always miss Alagi Mbye. I follow his programs on GRTS religiously.

May Allah grant him JANNA!

Saul Saidykhan



  1. My symphony to Alhaji Mbye°s family, Gambia and all the students who passed through him to be able to play the kora. I collaborated with Alhaji during one of my programs at the Swedish concert Institute in Stockholm in 2005 Jalibengo /korafestival. Alhagi together with Eva Sätter gave out a book called The Oral university. Alhaji played together with other musicians from Gambia, Sweden , Denmark,Ghana and Senegal at the world Music scene, and Södra Teartern.

  2. Lafia Touray la Manju

    The troupe leader’s name is Kura Chaw of Banjul. One curious question from me; how did a Mbaye family become manding Jali-lu?? There must be a history behind this because Mbaye is a wollof surname.

  3. Lafia Touray, Mbye surname is as Mandinka as Wollof & as anybody else….
    Mbye/Mbai, Sanyang, Janneh, Ceesay, Berteh, Keita Camara, Susso, Nyang, Nyan, Sonko, Mballow, etc are traditional-cousins (Senewo – in maindika) to the Touray surname; & likewise to each other of the above mentioned &/ other surnames too…
    Jatta is Njie for example, the surname can be found in Mandinka & Wollof & Fula/Pularr; Touray, Ceesay are Manding morr in Mandinka, there’s Touray & Ceesay ngarri too in Wollof, just for example, etc etc…
    Just to say that Manding (the region occupied by Ghana, Mali & Shongai & the smaller – kaabu, fulladu, Sine, Saloum, kombo,
    etc, empires before the European partitioning & colonisation….) was generally the reference-name referred to the geographical region of a diverse people by the local traditional historians otherwise called Griots; most if not all tribes & ethnicities do ‘inter-share’ some if not all surnames from the historical origin of surnames over the periods from time immemorial….
    Surnames across the ethnicities are influenced by interregional movements of the ‘fluid-like’ population of this geographical area since then, due to factors both natural & artificial (man-made) such as strife or wars, trade, immigration (across current country borders) etc etc….
    Languages of the Manding geographical area includes Mandinka, Wollof, Fula/Pularr & ALL OTHER languages too; languages even in same dialects vary & are influenced dialectically by regions; one tends to be influenced to speak the language of the particular area one is resident in; a kombo-nka Mandinka, Jarra or Sandu are examples; & Gambian speaks different to Senegalese Wollof too, etc etc…

  4. … traditional-cousins (Senewo – in maindika & Kal – in Wollof)…
    Thank you

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