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Monday, January 25, 2021

On ST and the evocative power of his music: Baba La Lettero

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By Momodou Sabally

My good father, son of Mamadinding Sabally and Binta Njie Teeda-Mamaa. Oh thou father of Binta, Gass, Ramou and Buraama,
I send you salutations of peace and prayers. Indeed this letter is long overdue for I started the draft some 7 years ago but could not proceed for myriad reasons.

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However, I received a message on what is called whatsApp; yes WhatsApp is a communication vehicle you would swear to be accessible only to the spirits called jinns because by the time you left this world in the late 70’s this kind of thing was unimaginable. Anyway the message came through this means and it was eerie and chilling as I read what the Kombo East Youth Leader Ismaila sent me, and here’s the text:
“Good morning Sabs…

“Tell your Dude not to spoil the December 7 show. I can’t dance and cry simultaneously for this song. We starting a petition. He either don’t sing that song or make it the last song of the concert so we can get on our way home. I love this guy…. please let him hear this.”
So I sent this message to the greatest rapper of our time. Certainly the message and the music referred to evoked deep reflections in me and reminded me of the idea of writing you a letter even though you left us decades ago. Truly ST’s hit track “Baaba La Lettero” reminds me of the words American Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson who said “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…”

The whole country is going through a phase since the release of this song that is likely to overshadow all other tracks in the upcoming album, Gambiana. There has been an outpouring of emotions on social media as people remember their late parents. Verily, ST was right when he told me that this song is not just for those who have lost their dads but it is also a call for people to appreciate their parents while they are still alive. What a message!!!
As the social media posts of hats imitating ST’s traditional hat he donned in the official flyer for the album continues, I also remember my late grandchild Babou Jow because he once put on my head a funny frame made of paper. Now you would not know Babou but he would be what we call in Mandinka ‘e mumuringo’ for he is the son of your grandchild Tijan, who is the first son of your second daughter Gass Sabally.

Babou who was named after Tijan’s late dad passed away a couple of months ago due to a tragic accident. So when I saw people using bowls and other funny paraphernalia as hats in solidarity with ST’s Gambiana Album, my mind went to the late charming Babou Jow and the funny frame he once put on my head.

Alhamdulillaah, Tijan’s friend and top raptivist Killa Ace recently named his newborn son after Babou and it was such a touching and healing move much appreciated by all the family. These young minds are teaching us through songs and actions that we can heal and support one another as Gambians rather than break up the nation as taught by my fave foreign musician of all times Buju Banton who sang in his classic “Hills and Valleys”:
I love to see brothers and sisters
Looking out for one another
That’s the way it should be
Not contrary, stop tearing down each other…
Baaba, The song “Baba La Lettero” comes at a perfect time for a nation that needs to acknowledge, and reconcile with, her past so as to attain closure and move on.
There is a lot of negative emotion bottled up here and this situation is killing people both literarily and metaphorically. A government that is supposed to heal the nation and foster reconciliation has actually further complicated our situation and added injury to insult in some critical cases too grotesque discuss for the purpose of this Lettero.

I only hope our musicians will do more of these kinds of songs for this is not the first time I have celebrated the powerful lyrics of ST. In my essay titled Seenyo-yaa: ST Raps Peaceful Coexistence, I saluted the young genius for the message of unity he preached to the nation as we started our transition process. So kudos to ST for this healing soothing track. Indeed the timing is apt. But more importantly, for me, Brikama Boyo has reminded me to pick my pen and complete that missive “Letter to my Father”.
May Allah shower his mercy and blessings on you and all the departed souls. Amen.
Your little son,

Momodou Sabally
The Gambia’s Pen

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