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!