The inherited title, Jali, means traditional griot or storyteller and Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh was born into a traditional griot family – the keepers of the oral traditions of West Africa. Although he was born in The Gambia, Jali’s ancestors were originally from the ancient Kingdom of Mali.
Jali, who is now based in Manchester, is a master of the Kora (African harp), an instrument built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, with a notched bridge like a lute or guitar. Each 21-stringed kora has own sound quality – echoing, as it does, the sounds of nature: the sound of the rain or wind on the leaves of trees. The traditional music is relaxing and its effect is to make audiences feel happy. Jali compares his music to natural ozone: its purpose is to encourage emotional balance and self-understanding.
Jali’s name comes from the Mandinga word Kuyate, and means no dispute or no problem. In other words, jalis are peace-makes.
Jali has performed in many events and festivals in the UK, including We Face Forward and Manchester International Festival in his hometown, where he also supported the international band, Afrocubism, at The Bridgewater Hall. He has also been featured in the BBC children’s programme Zingzillas. However, he still feels that his greatest achievement is expressing himself through his music to bring peace to others.
Book Jali to perform for individual celebrations, such as weddings or parties, or for national and international events. Jali also frequently runs music storytelling or cultural events in schools. He has also run workshops showing how koras are made from natural materials.