By Suntou Touray
The stage was set and matched. The audience came from all parts of the neighbouring villages. The heat of day overshadowed by the gentle breeze. The birds slowly flying to their layers and the chicken walking gingerly to their dens.
The call to prayer was about to be made. Children under 18 bound for the shelters, the old custom is to avoid exposing children just as night fall begins. The devil’s advocates roam inflicting harm on defenceless children. Sincere believers answering to the commands of God. Not the gods in any way.
The scene was Jendeh, a small Hamlet, one and half miles away from Darsilame, a twin village. The road leading to Jendeh is red grabble dusty and musky. The Hamlet maintains it rich customs. Festival of celebrating local customs occurs annually.
The events dates are such that, no calendar is needed to know when it’s due. People just know it. The ladies paety dance, the orobattete, and occasional kajo take precedence over other festival programs. Yet, no man can talk about the Jendeh festival without the kankuran and Jamba Jabally competition.
The kankuran is well known and likeable. He dresses in a costume of green leaves and red fara wonbo. He maintains decorum of unique styles, a style symbolised by the way he walks and talks. The kankuran talks but only to the jobo (guide). The guide is needed because the kankuran is supposed have his face covered. As some Mandingo culturalist would say, the jobo is the link between the mystical and the people. The kankuran of the wula or forest, being among people requires an mediator: the jobo. The jobo makes sure the drummers sound the right tunes for the kankuran, each kankuran has his unique dance moveees. What a spectacle!
The Jamba jabally on the other hand, is very different. It is uncommon in many other places. Jamba Jabally is dressed in a costume of a special green leaves. The leaves of a Jalo take the entire composition of the Jabally’s costume. He is a mystery figure in the kankuran circles. He talks but in slow and quiet tune. He dances in whirling way, he has a unique song that blend well with his dance and song.
The Jamba Jally on the Jendeh festival was so entranced by the slow drumming and clapping that, he never realise a kankuran was stealing the show from him. He sings songs like, fito fee malala jabally la fito yee malamala, hanin nman nyi nya danko nna fito yee malamala. (let the leaves shine, let jabally’s leaves shine, even if i am ugly, all that matters is let my leaves shine).
Sana a newThe kankuran broke a serious taboo, a kankuran doesn’t dance to the redeem of Jamba Jabally. He sits and watches the jamba jabally as a mark of respect. But not Sana, he was slogging it out with the Jamba jabally on Jamba’s tune and song. Jamba turn around towering over the mini kankuran. He made all gestures for Sana to stop but all falls on deaf ears.
Ifansu Juloma (Dance to your own redeem)
Jamba patience ran out. He became angry and bitter. How dare you! He Thought. Jamba gingerly went to the drummers and told them to change the tune. The drummer starts using the drum to talk to Sana. The drummers’ couple with Jamba Jabally start the ifansu julo ma song. Sana still continues dancing to that song and dance as well.
There is no option left for Jamba but to be proactive. He went politely to Sana the mad apprentice Kankuran and said “ifansujulo maa” (dance to your own music). Sana still couldn’t understand what is going on.
The truth is, that festival was Sana’s first day as a kankuran. He lacks all knowledge of the kankuran world. He doesn’t know the rules or regulations. The rituals and mannerism. Sana’s day ended badly. The Jamba Jabally strike Sana with his sword. Sana ran through the crowd, perplexed as to what has happen. The Jamba Jabally finally took hold of his residence and start singing other lovely songs free from interruption.
Ifansujulo Maa became taboo for sana.
I then knew that drums can talk. How interesting.
This story is a village childhood memory.