Lessons from Gambia – III

 “Hi, I am Kumba and you are Sunday”. That was how she introduced herself, and took a seat. Lunch for us all was a time to build more human Networks.

“No”, I corrected her. “I am Usman Jallow, a Fulla man”. She broke into her trade-mark smile. For another thirty minutes, we discussed Networking, Gambia, Nature but not Music, because I had no clue she sings.

Women seldom venture into Engineering or ICT. Taking a cue from my experience as an under-graduate, we had two ladies in a class of forty-two. The next set had three ladies and the set thereafter, a similar figure. These were trail blazers and wonderful Engineers in all respect. Maybe things have improved, but then, that was some thirty odd years ago!

It was refreshing to meet a nerd who combines the prowess of history, poetry, music and all and a nice voice to go with it.

Kumba Kuyateh was born on the 22nd April 1984 in Banjul, into a family of griots. Historians, storytellers, praise singers, poets and musicians. She was brought up in Senegal, very close to Dakar. She recently graduated from the University of the Gambia with a BSc in Computer Science, and works at the University as a Systems Administrator.

According to Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators, “Though the griot has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable.” Although they are popularly known as “praise singers”, griots may also use their vocal expertise for gossip, satire, or political comment.

Kumba’s first appearance on the stage and on national TV as a real griot was when she performed in a talent show in a pageant. From there she was encouraged by many, more especially by Fatou Camara – the presenter of the popular “Fatushow”, to go into music. She then released her first single album called “Mussolu” {youtube}ytdE39ITJR8 |300|225|1{/youtube}

She later made a nice jingle for the “FatuShow” as a way to express her gratitude to Fatou Camara for helping her so much in the music world. The FatuShow jingle is loved and adored by many people (male, female, young and old) in the Gambia.

My first impression of Kumba Kuyateh, my friend and celebrated Gambian Musical Icon was that of serious nerd and nothing more. Alas, how wrong I was! Kumba was successful, yet very thirsty for more knowledge. She is broad minded enough to seek out exactly what she wants, and a goal-getter.

I walked away from Gambia richer by one more friend – Kumba, and one more sense – Never judge a book by the cover.

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