Jaaleekaay is a musical collaboration between Australian guitarist Steve Berry and two musicians from Gambia: singer Yusupha Ngum and kora player Amadou Suso.
Jaaleekaay is a musical collaboration between Australian guitarist Steve Berry and two musicians from Gambia: singer Yusupha Ngum and kora player Amadou Suso. Contributed

Jaaleekaay, a West African musical crossing point

JAALEEKAAY is a West African word in the Wolof language meaning crossing point.

The word is the perfect name for the musical collaboration between Australian guitarist Steve Berry (Kev Carmody, Shane Howard, Robyn Archer) and two of Gambia's leading musicians, Yusupha Ngum (vocals) and Amadou Suso (kora).

This world music ensemble is a combination that stems from a fortuitous meeting in Gambia, and makes for an intriguing mix of contemporary musical prowess and deep cultural tradition.

Yusupha is from a griot family (a West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet and musician) and his late father Musa Ngum was one of West Africa's most renowned singers and proponents of Mbalax musical tradition (the national popular dance music in Senegal and Gambia).

Amadou is a direct descendent of Korea Musa Suso, also a griot musician, who first introduced the Kora to the world 760 years ago.

When they first toured Australia two years ago, Jaaleekaay received rave reviews and standing ovations at major festivals including the Mullum Music Festival.

In partnership with Music Outback Foundation, the trio also visited remote Central Australia, playing and giving workshops at Aboriginal communities in far north South Australia and in the Northern Territory.

Now, in 2016, they have a new self-titled album and are touring Australia in support of the release.

Like many other francophone West African countries, the Senegalese popular music scene was partially influenced by soul, blues, jazz, R&B, and rock from the United States, varieté from France, Congolese rumba, and Latin pop from the Caribbean and New York (in the form of Latin rhythms pachanga, son, charanga, salsa, and Latin jazz).

In this mix of African sounds, Senegalese fans and musicians wanted their own urban popular dance music so they began singing in Senegal's lingua franca, Wolof, instead of French, and incorporated rhythms of the indigenous sabar drum.

Dancers began using moves associated with the sabar, and tipping the singers as if they were traditional griots.

Throughout March and April they appear at Port Fairy Folk Festival, Blue Mountains Music Festival, the National Folk Festival and various other east coast venues including Melbourne's newest and prestigious jazz venue, Bird's Basement.



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