“When I was little, I would go out into nature every two weeks to walk and hunt. My inspiration for 10,000 Steps Around the World is the importance of nature to Kora music. The Kora is made from nature. The body of the Kora is still made out of gourds and originally, the strings were made from animal gut. The Kora captures the sounds of nature – the sound of the rain falling and leaves rustling in the wind.” Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh
The inherited title, Jali, means traditional griot or storyteller and Nyonkoling Kuyateh was born into a traditional griot family. Although he was born in The Gambia, Jali’s ancestors were originally from the ancient Kingdom of Mali. Jali’s surname comes from the Mandinga word Kuyate, which means no dispute or no problem. So the Kuyateh family are peacemakers.
Now based in Manchester, Nyonkoling 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 rain or wind on the leaves of trees. Jali compares his music to natural ozone: its purpose is to encourage emotional balance and self-understanding.
“The Kora player or griot plays in the centre of a village under a Baobab tree, so I wanted to be under a tree to play for Ten Thousand Steps Around the World.”
Jali has performed in many events and festivals in the UK, including We Face Forward, Manchester International Festival, and the Bridgewater Hall, where he also supported the international band, Afrocubism. 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.