By: Oko Drammeh
In the last edition of The Legends, we started focusing on Senemie, a living legend, a poet, composer, a music arranger, a teacher, a keyboard wizard and a master of the guitar.
A core member of the Super Eagles Band and one of the founding fathers of Ifangbondi Band and inventor of the World acclaimed Afro-Manding Sounds; he is an inspired musician, an inspiring innovator and a mystical artist. Senemie invented methods, music business models and devices and turned each into significantly larger cultural and artistic phenomena.
A visionary and focal point for the Ifangbondi band and a symbol of Gambian Greatness, Senemie is the uncompromising genius who will go down in the pantheon of Great African thinkers alongside the late Dr Lenrie Peters, Leopold Sedar Senghore, Camara Laye (author of the African Child), David Diop (author Africa My Africa), Dr. Florence Mahoney, and the late Tutor Henry Man Joof.
Senemie started to play the balafong under the mentorship of Habibou Manneh and Sana Beyai of Somita Village and the styles of Sunjulou Cisokko, studied the Simbing bass instruments commonly known as the Furakafu and also studied the Kintong from a Jola Konting player called Bernard.
The Ifangbondi percussion section was sacred. Seneme joined the percussionist team to create authenticity in the percussion line up. They played Jola Bugarabu, Mandingo Barawulo, wollof Mbalax and Creole Asiko. They mastered all the percussion in every tribe and created wonder drumming which Seneme as band conductor supervised to perfection.
Senemie single-handedly transformed the roots of the Afro Manding sounds and along with it changed his name to Kunon Jarjutay. He was a meditator ( seeing things Differently), spent the early morning hours of dawn with his eyes closed and worshiping the Almighty God before touching his instruments. To Senemie music was holy and a way to praise God.
Senemie always carried a keyboard but not like the days when he had two keyboards. He carried his keyboard just like a Kora player would carry his instrument. Seneme was a spiritualist ( not materialist )and he never eyed the money. He gave most of his income to griots and makers of traditional music and instruments.
He would pay their way to come to Banjul on weekends, gave them accommodation, nourishment and transportation and invited them to the Tropical Night Club to perform at the HEWAREH programme on Sundays. This programme was a school of music and a talent centre for many young Gambian musicians. This was a fine production by Ifangbondi and many musicians graduated from here.
Senemie is a stage showman with formidable dance steps and great theatrical movements that were the grace of the 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s in America like the James Brown Camel-walk, the Kung fu (he used the Kung Fu in Mbour, and in Basse in his encounter with Jahe Sumareh, friend of Malick Krubally). He was agile and athlete, invented numerous movements that were only comparable to the inventors of dance choreography.
The Senegambian youths copied these dances and posed the forms as printed in the French Music Magazine salute Les copins from French icons like Johnny Halliday, Claude Francois, Micheal Paulnareff, Adamo and company.
Senemie was the eye catcher of the youths of Ghana, the Gambia and Senegal as trendsetter, taste-maker and a fashion icon and dance mogul.
In the days of Atlantic Records there were hits like Hip-Hug Her, Melting Pot her by Booker T & the M.G’s and Soul finger by the Bar Kays and Sweet Soul Music by Arthur Conley of Stax Records, these dancers were only seen in America (since there were no US TV channels in the region), Senemie thought the dance to the youths by forming his own brand of these dance styles in his own way by creating the slide & drag moves and the full & flip moves, Moon Walking..
He was the Apex of artistry, people came from miles around to see him play his music and do the dance of the tunes and the next day everyone would pick up the dance. He was the zenith of music and dance in both Senegal and The Gambia and he was seen by many as a demi-god.
In technology, he was the Midas and had the touch. He advanced the sound of the keyboard creating an oscillation from the Leslie-speaker system and the Flanger synthesiser effects that changed the sound of music in the region. He brought in the sounds of Moody Blues, Emerson and Palmer and Pink Floyd into African Music.
He influenced the Ghanaian Keyboardist of the Osibisa band Ki Ki Gyan who was later introduced to UNESCO by former UN secretary Mr. Koffie Anan to sensitise the youth of Africa on drug abuse. KiKi Gyan was allocated with over 10 million dollars but Ki Ki a reformed drug addict sadly, died in the cause.
In Ghana all these guys used to watch the genius of Senemie from his stage performances to his fashion wear and they copied and imitated every move of his soul.
He always ordered the right instruments for the right sound for Ifangbondi, the Moog synthesizer and the Hammond organ sound was the centerpiece of the Ifangbondi sound.
He also assisted the Ifangbondi sound engineers and repair technicians, as well as the master technician of that time the late John Dalia and Ifang Bondi Sound engineers like Omar Khan John and Ebou Sanneh Dolleh, sometimes with John Eagleton of Gelewarr Band. Senemie would set up the stage microphones, balance the sound before every show and conducted the music structure in every piece.
He was the Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven. He was responsible for mixing the sound and he was also the recording engineer for Ifangbondi on every recording session. He had the patience for the right sound and selected the repertoire for every occasion. He was also the spokesperson for the band and conducted his interviews and business meeting in a professional manner.
He communicated as an astute businessman. Senemie is the last standing soldier in keeping the imperial fortress of the Afro Manding Imperial temple. He was seen wondering in the same way like Amadeus Mozart, as a waist but the master knows too much.
A master who knows too much never worries about the material world for the purpose of wealth. He is a just human being and pure in both intention and heart; a better heart than a gracious body.
How can anyone dash a favour to an artist? The reward for his creativity as a national advancement is a national reward. The artist is the motor of every society as we locally see the griot, they inspire people to invent and to work and they settle our nerves when we are stressed out, tired, empty and filled with guilt.
They are the vain of life and the messengers God sent to us to uphold the standard of goodness against the odds of society, low self-esteem, and evil ways. These artists are the teachers of mankind through creative invention that the ordinary human cannot know naturally.
They are Saints and prophets and our responsibility is to look after them, just like we look after our, Priests, Imams and Bishops and make them our pilots of life.
Senemie was a prophet of music and history will judge him fairly. If we fail in our duty to him, he will be another prophet crucified by mankind.
Gambians be grateful to him, as he has been to The Gambia and open wide the gate of reward.
Senemie continued to maintain a music life, spreading his the Gambia. He can still be heard adding his distinctive voice and keyboard to many of the Super Eagles and Ifangbondi’s recordings.
Rest in Peace Senemie, the prince.