The Genius of Jaliba Kuyateh, From Country to Hollywood
From the Daily Observer, Gambia
by Oko Drammeh, 13th April 2012
The powerful rhythms and melodies of Africa blend with the vibrant horns of American Jazz musicians as the Soto Koto Band brings you a great album — Kora Dance — Produced by Oko Drammeh.
Jaliba Kuyateh is a recognized Gambian artist in the area of performing arts who contributed greatly to the promotion of Gambian culture and the development of African and Gambian music in particular. He composed many songs conveying messages to the people on social issues and rendered services free of charge to build schools, religious centers and health centers.
As a child during the ages of five to seven years, Jaliba was trained on the Kora – a twenty-one stringed musical instrument, mainly found in countries along the west coast of Africa. This happened through his father who was also a player of the Kora. At this time, if he did anything wrong, his father was using the kora as a form of a disciplinary measure by giving him a tune to play on the Kora before he was allowed to go out and play with friends. Through this, he was able to acquire the basic skills on the instrument since the time he was very young.
Because of his school career, he almost left the Kora completely, apart from during leisure time. Only when he entered the Gambia teachers training college, he became interested in the instrument again. During the college course, he was with the Kora constantly, and rapidly became known by all Gambians as well as in other West African countries because of his performances and interviews in the national radio.
Interested students came and formed a group with him. The group became famous and started touring the country, especially during school holidays. This development went ahead to date.Jaliba and the group has since then in a very characteristical way been able to blend traditional and modern musical instruments in their repertoire, thus making it possible for them to produce music that is appealing to both the young and older generation of Gambians as well as visitors.
He is Jaliba from The Gambia, West Africa, a man of music and king of the kora sound. He was known as the Kora Boy, singing in small groups and parties and at the same time attending school, playing kora and learning the trade of the music business in Banjul in the shadows of Ifang-bondi Band. He found his way to Senegal and Guinea Bissau singing River Gambia kora-blues.
He traveled from The Gambia abroad to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm,and the United States and everywhere he played the people would applaud. He gained international fame in Amsterdam were he played at the African Music Festival in the Paradiso with other major African stars including Superstar Kojo Antwi of Ghana, Sakiss and the Zouk Machine of Congo, Viva La Music the group of Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomedi and Warason, Mory Kante and Salif Keita.
He is a great singer known as the “Kumareh Voice” because of his silky voice. Without his singing, playing and dancing, the kora music would not have been the same. From this time on he had no other name than Jali, a noble role as a griot ordained by the community and respected by all.
He is the driving force of the Gambian music scene and a man who made the instrument of kora well known in the world from Gambia to Hollywood, USA. Jaliba advanced the kora sound mixing it with modern European and American instruments. He became the driving force of contemporary Mandingo music by making the kora sound a unique brand of contemporary Jazz music that appeals to Blues & Jazz lovers, funky ambient, Urban and even Kora Hip Hop.
If you listen to the song Bantaba, in which he duets with Karin Patterson a one time backing vocalist with Tina Turner, this tune has an irresistible American brand of funk with the English glowing voice of Karin and the flow of the tingling kora sound, which give the industry a new music of cultural diversity.
Jaliba performs his show both plugged with an 6-piece band from Africa and sessions with international artists like those who played on his worldly-global sounds album Kora Dance including Don Grusin, a veteran Jazz pianist from the Miles Davis band, Larry Williams of composer of Thriller with Michael Jackson, Sea wind band & Michael Jackson band played on Black & White and Smooth Criminal, Gary Herbig who played sax solo on Stevie Wonder & Beyonce hits, Leon Ware (backing Vocals) with late Michael Jackson Marvin Gaye and Motown studio singer, Armand Sabal Lecco, bass player for Sting, Peter Gabriel, Manu Dibango, Celin Dion and others, Jimmy Earl who played bass with Chick Corea and Weather Report and the Jimmy Kemmel show, Toshi Yanaga, Guitarist from Japan, played for Tony Braxton on lead guitar and also Gambian musicians such as the Kumareh band’s African percussionists Mr.Nyaw Nying, Omar Camara and guitarist/ Bassist Ousman Beyai, a former Ifangbondi musician.
Jaliba has opened his project to numerous guests from a wide range of musical genres including the Texas All star Jazz band, Michael Williams’s big band, and the Kojo Antwi Ghana’s Kora Show, etc. He directed the music of his Kora sound in these shows and produced an astonishing performance with these orchestras.
He participated in benefit concerts for Gambia’s children in schools and communities all over the Europe and America. He was nominated for the World Music Award. Besides focusing on the kora music writing, he played a series of shows in remarkable locations: tours of European and American cities, showed a returned to free improvisation and intimate musical dialogues with his album Kora Dance.
He invited friends in his band from all over the Gambia and some European and American musicians to create World Kumareh Music in the true sense of the word, traveling with the Kora music throughout Europe and the US. With the almost daily additional configuration of musicians, Jaliba followed the open concept of his music, the Sound of Kora.Jaliba has a large-scale soundtrack, a dramatic blend of sound design, choirs and percussion.
A Performance in Amsterdamat the African Music Festival Festival thousands of people chanting the Jaliba Kuyateh-music, popular in Holland since the early nineties. Re-mastering of the entire album Kora Dance in to F.D.S (Full dimension sound): 8.1 digital surround sound(12 songs), to be released in the Gambia, Africa, US and Canada by the Soto Koto Music Group, in the rest of the world on Higher Octave Music over the span of a year.
The sound of the kora is a harp-like sound and sometimes sounds like a guitar. This African instrument is an original instrument from West Africa from the country called The Gambia. The Gambia was a part of the former Mandingo Empire of West Africa in the 1600s. The instrument was used for accompanying poetry readers, kings’ parades and war preparation.
The music is inspiring and the songs carry messages of faith, strength, history and genealogy. The kora carries a lasting value for the people of Gambia and their heritage. Jaliba Kuyateh has released various music samples and musical styles with many artists around the world. He has toured France, the USA, Portugal, England, Holland, Sweden, Norway and most countries of Africa.
Jaliba Kuyateh has been appointed a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF for his service and benefit concerts to raise funds for community projects, social awareness and cultural education. His band consists of hard working musicians who have played with him for over a decade. They play Mandingo drums blended with jazz drumming and spiced with hand percussions of various bells, Sabarr drums, Siko and kutirr Mandingo drums, bamboo and calabashes.
He sings both in English and in the African languages of Senegalese Wollof and Gambian Mandinka, which makes him the king of voices. He has a long, sharp winding voice that calls spirit from the deep forest. Jaliba can sing in seven octaves. The US album released Kora Dance is a stage show of two hours with dancing and singing girls from The Gambia and an all-star band direct from Africa known as the Kumareh Band. The Kumareh is a singing bird found on the banks of the River Gambia in West Africa.
Jaliba Kuyateh is a legend in his lifetime. He is one of the great living luminaries of Gambian music. His whole life has been dedicated to playing music and he is solely responsible for the introduction of Gambian kora music to millions of people outside The Gambia and he has elevated the prestige of Gambian music in the music world. For this, his name will go down in letters of gold in the history of world music. The Jaliba Acoustic Ensemble; A Taste of Authenticity
The Night of the Griots is a traditional, acoustic music, drumming, singing and dance experience. It features the history and poetic storytelling of traditional Gambian musician and singer Jaliba Kuyateh and his 21-string kora instrument.The Jaliba Acoustic Ensemble consists of griots & griotress known as Jalibas & Jali Mussos. The kora master is known as Jaliba, meaning Our Musician-Singer of tradition and Culture.
These are the troubadors of Africa with folk music of The Gambia and the instruments that were brought from Africa to the Western Hemisphere and were the Roots of the Blues — the Fulani riti (violin), the kora (harp), balafon (wooden xylophone), the xalam (predecessor of the banjo), the bolom (bass guitar), the dun dun (bass drums), the junjung, djembe, family hand drums and many windpipes, bambo flutes and other instruments.
The Griot is the library of the Mandingo people. Since their history is remembered history and not written history, the Griot is the living history book, singing songs of the history and genealogy of the Empire of Mandingo which is now integrated to what is called West Africa. See it once, remember it always!
Posted on April 14, 2012, in African Musicians, Opinion and tagged Gambian Music, Guinea Bissau, Jaliba Kuyeteh, Kojo Antwi, Kora Dance, Kora-Blues, Oko Drammeh, Religious Music, Sakiss, Senegal, Soto Koto Band, Viva La Music. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.