Editorial Tribute to Jali Alagie Mbye, legendary korist

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Former South African statesman and apartheid hero - Nelson Mandela has once said that ‘death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace’. This statement sends a clear message that as human beings we are all on transition on this earth.

The Gambia is mourning the death of Jali Alagie Mbye, one of legendary kora maestro, historian and cultural ambassadors of our time. The kora legend, who died Wednesday at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, was a rare hero in that he had both achieved greatness and had greatness thrust upon him.

He was a familiar figure in The Gambia’s music industry and his charming allure and humble demeanour and smile made him adored by many. As a humble man, he left the stage when the footlights seemed to be at their brightest.

Born in Jarra Barrow Kunda to Sutaring Mbaye and Aja Jabou Jange, the late Jali Alagie Mbaye attended Barrow Kunda Primary School and later Mansakonko Junior Secondary School.

He later went in search of his tradition and learnt playing the Kora where he started research on manding history and was travelling across West Africa to gather facts about Manding.

His quest to spread Kora and history motivated him to travel extensively across Europe especially in Norway and Sweden where he stayed for a while before returning back to The Gambia.

Over the years, he lectured traditional music at various universities across Scandinavia and built a school teaching Kora to lots of people in order to boost the Mandinka culture. Historian Hassoum Ceesay credited him as one of The Gambia’s finest multitalented, orator, instrumentalist and historians in our generation.

 His demise has robbed the country of a powerful voice of culture, history and tradition, and left a void which will be hard to fill, Mr. Ceesay said.

It could be recalled that in 2009, he was part of The Gambia delegation to the Algiers Pan African festival, in 2011 he travelled with a group of talented Gambian griots to a big cultural festival in Taiwan. There he manifested his prolific Kora skills in front of a record turnout.

Mr. Ceesay added: “Alagie was a good and generous man. He shared his knowledge of Gambian history and culture generously. He was always primed for patriotic duty. To his family, friends and followers, I convey my condolences.”

Adieus Jali Alagie Mbaye  

“An actors’ tribute to me is in his work.”

Lee Strasberg