In 1972, former culture minister Alhaji Kalilou Singhateh led a glittering constellation of Gambian griots to the Manding Conference in London to help Professor Dalby put together the stitches,regarding his research on the Manding Empire.
Ex-culture minister Singhateh and former director of National Center for Arts and Culture Mr. Bakary Sidibeh(deceased) were in 1972 tasked by the Jawara administration to assemble Gambia’s best in Kora, Hallam and Balafong to represent the country at the 1972 Manding Conference.
Professor Dalby formerly of the School of Oriental and African Studies was conducting a research on African empires but hit a seeming deadend in his quest for deeper knowledge in the Manding Empire.
“He’d read Senghor’s Negritude and he thought Senghor could help. He reached out to the Senegalese ambassador, who later informed Senghor about it. Senghor contacted Jawara and that was how I got involved,” Alhaji Kalilou Singhateh once narrated to the late Alhaji Sarjo Barrow and Alhaji Alieu Jobe as he reflected on the life of Lalo Kebba Drammeh.
When the onerous task of selecting griots from the sparkling array of Gambian instrumentalists fell on Hon. Singhateh and Mr. Sidibeh, they did not disappoint.
They put together master Koraists and Hallam maestros in the likes of Lalo Kebba Drammeh, Faabala Kanuteh, Jali Nyaama Suso, Balabo Jeng and others from the Basse region.
“We went to Manding Conference with the best in talent and knowledge,” the Baddibu Saba-born former culture and education minister reminisced.
He went on:”We arrived in London and were received by ambassador B. O Semega Janneh(may Allah give him ease)at Gambia’s embassy. The US ambassador also joined us there to welcome us. Afterwards, we proceeded to the African Centre and met Senghore there alongside former governors-general in the British West Africa. “Those from Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria…were all invited to join us. It was a historic gathering.”
Former culture minister Singhateh recollected how the Gambian contingent pulled spectacular performances at the Manding Conference.
“It was historic. Our representatives did exceptionally well. It was hugely entertaining as music and culture were interlaced,” Hon. Singhateh recalled with fondness.
Also, he fondly remembered when the Gambian griots were honoured with invitation to rub shoulders with the Queen following their scintillating performances at the Manding Conference.
“Secretary of State Cornwall invited us to meet the Queen. Afterwards, we had a meeting with Senghor, who said, the 1972 Manding Conference was just the tip of the iceberg. I also spoke and told the gathering that we were all passionate about the conference,” Hon. Singhateh told GRTS some years ago.
Senegal, according to him, was represented at the Manding Conference by the country’s Ensemble Instrumental.