In Mandinkan, “jali” means musician and “kunda” means home. Jalikunda, then, means “musician’s home”. It’s an apt name for this vibrant group of young African musicians and dancers. Their performance blows new life into the ancient folk culture of their homeland in West Africa. As they travel across the globe, performing the music and dances of the land of their birth, their music takes them to their spiritual home!
The ancient roots of Jalikunda’s music
The ancient musical traditions of West Africa trace their ancestry right back to the 13th century Malian Empire. The rich Mandinkan tradition of songs, stories and dance, with its central message of peace and harmony, has been preserved down the centuries by The Griots – a professional caste of musicians and storytellers who handed down the precious legacy from father to son and mother to daughter as the years rolled by.
The Mandinkan spirit is as alive today in the music of Jalikunda as it was way back then. Watch this video of Jalikunda’s performance at Montserrat African Musical Festival 2013 and judge for yourself …
Mamadou Cissoko, bandleader and virtuoso kora and djembe player, was himself was born in Lindiane, a leafy superb in the lush green region of Casamance, Southern Senegal. He inherited the Griot tradition from his mother’s family and in particular from his late grandfather, Jali Kemo Cissokho, who taught him to play the kora (the 22-stringed African harp) from the age of five.
The Mandinkan tradition: togetherness through music
The magical Mandinkan aural legacy of songs of praise, folk wisdom and shared history was nurtured down the centuries by a professional caste of musicians and storytellers called Jalis or Griots – historians, praise singers and master musicians. The spirit of their performance is suffused with an underlying traditional Griot message of communal harmony and brotherhood.
The present-day members of Jalikunda bring this ancient musical tradition bang up to date. In true Mandinkan musical style, their infectiously joyful and warm performance brings the audience and the performers together, communicating peace and love through the universal language of music.
Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Mali … diversity within one cultural identity
West Africa stretches from the tropical equatorial forest of Guinea northwards to the more temperate but equally lush coast of Senegal. Eastwards, it snakes 700 miles along the winding River Gambia to the fabled outpost of Timbuktu in Mali, on the southern edge of the burning Sahara Desert. In the far north, the desert of Mauritania dominates, bordering on the Arab dominated Morocco.
West Africa contains ancient and modern histories as diverse as the changing landscape. In Gambia, the official language is English. In Guinea Bissau, Portuguese is spoken. In Senegal, Mali and Guinea it’s French. These colonial languages make communication easier for travellers as West Africans share literally hundreds of dialects and most speak at least a little of four or five languages.
Despite differences of geography and language, the ancient aural Mandinkan legacy of music and dance bubbles beneath the surface in all these places, providing a sense of shared culture that transcends this modern diversity.
On the 15th March, 2014, you can experience the warm and wild spirit of West Africa at Salem Cricket Ground on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, as the band takes part in the 2nd Montserrat African Festival. Come and watch, clap and sing – join in and experience the sense of togetherness the performance generates. It’s guaranteed to be an intoxicating experience!