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Sunday, June 13, 2021

On the Golden Jubliee: Gambia cha kanam…

It’s been a while since I last wrote for this paper and I did promise to reignite my muse for your publication but this thing called writers block could be a real impediment sometimes. I thought I should do an epistle for a start. And speaking about epistles, was it not your former boss, our bard-in-chief, who suggested this idea of him and I exchanging thoughts on national issues across the Atlantic while I was in Atlanta Georgia around the year 2007 and he was sojourning in the Queen’s island. Yes he did propose this and nothing happened until we both came back to Banjul and he started this paper called The Standard. I penned him so many epistles and only one or two did he respond to but I persisted in the process and even forced some responses from him through my then-popular conversations. 


So much for a digression but I thought I should do a piece or two in commemoration of our 50th Independence anniversary, an anniversary for once worthy of celebration. I will explain in my next essay (hopefully next week insha Allah) why I put emphasis on the worthiness of this celebration, but for now let me start with an excerpt from a piece I did as we approached our 48th Independence anniversary. Here it goes; you may call it a prologue to what I would send you next week inshaa Allah:


For The Gambia: Songs of Hope and Inspiration


If I had the voice of Jaliba Kuyateh or Abdel Kabirr (Lie Ngum), nay if I had the voice of Amina Conteh or Sambou Suso, I would have sung a brilliant song…


But I am not as blessed in singing as the virtuoso artistes I have listed above. Therefore let me limit myself to poetry and leave the art of singing to Manding Morry, Nova and their ilk for truly my mother is right: tonsoe la siloe nteh nganing ti (thorny bushes are not appropriate paths for bats to fly). Let me then content myself with the appreciation of lyrics sang by Gambian artistes in celebration of the good and the beautiful about this country called the smiling coast. How I wish I had the dexterity in writing to express the joy and pride that I feel at the opening verses of the great song by Gee and his partner when the string of the kora animate the voice that rises to a crescendo with “Am Sooraa Suso, from the smiling coast of West Africa…” here Gee raps the lyrics asking how can he be bold enough to sit a girl down and tell her that he loves her. Is this a real girl that Gee raps about or is the girl in the song a metaphor for  The Gambia…


I just cannot take my iPod off my ears due to the beautiful songs I am hearing: Pa  Bobo sings “Gambia, peace love and unity” and this track is followed by Tata Dinding’s “nganiya kunda” where he calls for unity of purpose and common goodwill for national progress. He warns against discord saying that if some are striving for progress while others are cursing and praying for retrogression, development will be retarded. So Pa Bobo’s song should then be our mantra if we want national progress: Peace, love and unity!


Singhateh did a great piece on the National anthem backed by Jaliba Kuyateh, and this song must rank among the best on the theme of this essay. Poetic X has inspiring lyrics about civic duty and responsibility calling on us to work for the development of our own country because no foreigner will come here and do it for us. They call on us to preserve our environment and to make sure we maintain cleanliness in our surroundings.


Tam 50’s hit track “Mono” may not have been purposely sung for the celebration of The Gambia but it carries crispy crunchy pieces of lyrics that celebrate our homeland. The very word ‘mono’ is a local porridge that my friends from Kiang claim to have invented, a very Gambian dish! I have recently replayed this song for more than a dozen times just because of the one phrase: “Gambia to the fullest!” the young man from Bakoteh (fondly called BK City by rappers from that town) is surely proud of where he comes from as he chants “BK City you’re my back and Banjul my stamp!” 


A trip down memory lane reminds me of the sweet lyrics of the Black Acoustic group who once thrilled us with a celebration of the victory of our Under 17 team that clinched the CAF cadet trophy in 2005, capping their hit song with the verse “And the Gambian flag will fly high, in the sky” in celebration of the same victory Jaliba Kuyateh also sang about. The Gambia’s greatest artiste treated us to a song for the same Under Seventeen, saying “atol leh yeh Gambia kango janga yaandi” (You have made the Gambia proud and admired.)


If I were to dwell on the many songs that Jaliba has sung for The Gambia, I will end up writing a whole book. For now let me just take a few that come off the top of my mind while pounding the keyboard … still buoyed … The maestro has sung, as quoted on page 11 of my recently published book “For The Gambia: Living the National Anthem”: “man day ngembu naa pur borel Gambia” (I have girded my loins to wrestle for The Gambia), an apt metaphor for every Gambian to embrace and get prepared to work for the betterment of our motherland.”


In the song “Siver Jublilee” that he did in commemoration of our 25th Independence anniversary, Jaliba praised the effort of those who led the struggle for independence and commended the nation for the peace and tranquility that has characterised our country which is seen by many as a beacon of hope in a turbulent sub-region. There is the song where he says “tili bukaa fanna mala long. N-na bankoe long to leh dunuyaa…” (the sun does not realize its own brilliance; my country is well known). I can go on and on with the many inspiring lyrics sung by the kora maestro in celebration of The Gambia but let me end with his award-winning single “22th July” which he released in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the July 22th Revolution. Chanting the milestones achieved in President Jammeh’s development agenda, Jaliba reminds us about the proliferation of schools, hospitals, agricultural implements, ending that rendition with the chorus “Yahya jamaanoe diyaa taleh” (Yahya’s era is one of joy).


My friend, as I admitted, I am not one blessed with a melodious voice to sing so let me content myself with an attempt at a sonnet in commemoration of our golden jubilee:


We have progressed many a mile

Still investing worth the while

Journey so long with many a trial

Still we surge with faith high

Schools we built for every child

Hospitals were away many a mile

Now we get them in every mile

Blessings to the President whose aim is high

Confusing the skeptics far and nigh

Shaming the crown that stole our right

Gambia stands tall with pride

Forward we march never to tire

Faith in Allah is our guide

Peace and progress is our pride


My good friend this is my attempt at a poem but am sure many more skillful poets can do a better job; perhaps our-bard-chief should be commissioned for one to be read during the celebrations. 


As a parting word, let me remind my fellow countrymen and women that fifty years is not fifty days or months. It is a whole lifetime for any human being. As my mother tells me, people who share a home or any place are bound to offend one another either on purpose or by mistake; she emphasises with the example of the tongue and the teeth who even though they may be regarded as the closest of siblings, do clash often. The point is to ensure forgiveness over and over. We have been living together for fifty years and that means we have offended one another very often. Now let us use this occasion to forgive one another and to renew our mutual understanding and respect. Let me quote from my book “For The Gambia Living The National Anthem”: a Wolof proverb, what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart. We should therefore focus more on our similarities and our connections, the unifying factor – rather than on our minor differences; i.e. the elements of diversity which when properly looked at will only make us realise how rich we are as a nation because of the diversity in our unity.”


Happy Golden Jubilee: Gambia cha kanam, nyaato dorong!


Yours, in Writing,

Momodou Sabally

The Gambia’s Pen

Author: “For The Gambia: Living the National Anthem” and “To The Gambia: The Smiling Coast”


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