Bai Konte



A 6mm film by Oliver Franklin and Marc Pevar, “Alhaji Bai Konte,” depicts a day-in-the-life of the now-deceased Gambian Mandinka kora virtuoso, Alhaji Bai Konte, shot on location in Brikama, Gambia (plus one scene in Dakar, Senegal), West Africa, and narrated by world-famous bluesman Taj Mahal.

Alhaji Bai Konte’s son, Dembo Konte, accompanies in the performance, and various family members and friends make cameo appearances. His wife, Nafi Kouyate, appears in the final scene, praying. Kora is a 21-stringed harp unique to the Mandinka, played by Griots who are oral historians as well as musicians. This group of Mandinka preserve and propagate genealogical and historical information through song and story, and are a source of immense pride and identity to the Mandinka people.

Alhaji Bai Konte was the first griot to introduce the kora widely throughout North America, where he toured major folk, jazz and blues festivals, gave private concerts and mingled with many professional musicians. His tours continued for seven years in the 1970’s, often accompanied by Dembo Konte and Malamini Jobate, whose excellent musical skills were also a delight to their audiences.

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