Alex, my good friend, it has been a while since I last penned you a missive. But that is partly due to the fact that the last time I sent a letter your way, you never published it. Therefore I gave you the cold shoulder in my literary mission and diverted my epistles toward the more widely read platforms of Fatu Network and the guy a pals calls “Nderry Leaks”.

So why did you refuse to publish that article on the “value of all voices in governance”. Is it because I quoted the lyrics of the Gambian old school artist Boubacarr Jammeh knowing your hometown’s past misgivings with a particular music video that turned out awry; giving an edge to your (Cultural) rivals in Sukuta to run rings around you with jibes?

Alex, It’s okay if you are pissed off with the foregoing because I know I have two solid uncles as your partners on your platform and the Jammeh’s have never played second filled to the Darboe’s-Lol! As my mother the late Kaddy Jammeh would sing “mbaring-na loo; moe teh m-bai la!” (Nobody can drive me away from my uncle’s zone/platform).

Sorry for the digression but I needed to get this off my chest before I proceed on the very exciting topic of today’s letter.

I have known ST Brikama Boyo for a little over 4 years now with my first encounter with his inspiring lyrics being the track “Ali Ndomo”. I first heard this song while I was a detainee at Mile Two Central Prisons (after I was relieved of my cabinet portfolio) and it resonated with the core of my realities at the time so it felt as if he was singing for me. I was to later meet the young man when I took over the management the Observer Company in tandem with running the state broadcaster GRTS. This happened at a time when I initiated creative platforms for young Gambian talents through the mini magazine “Observer Light” and other myriad programmes like “Perspectives on Gambian Music” that later metamorphosed into “Top Notch Convo” with Ibrahim Cham.

I took a liking to ST and my association with his media director at the time, Sultan Jammeh, actually helped me appreciate ST’s work better. We have since then maintained close cordial relations through thick and thin. The high point of my appreciation of his music came with his publication of his previous album “Watotijay” with hit tracks like “Mandinka Warrior” and “Task Dekabi” being staples for spicing up my motivational aromas at work and at home.

ST’s music has been a source of inspiration for me since then. His lyrics teach lessons in leadership and his style and work ethics are all full of lessons for young people desirous of leadership.

ST’s music is different and it takes COURAGE to step out of the crowd and beat a new path because that is risky; but as late US President Abraham Lincoln would put it “towering genius disdains a beaten path; it seeks regions hitherto unexplored.” So he had a choice to remain in the safe lane or divert the path and create a new flavour and he chose the latter. This is certainly an example of one leadership trait propounded by no less an authority than our mutual motivational hero, the legendary Napoleon Hill who emphatically stated that  “Unwavering Courage” is one of the key planks of enduring leadership.

The very act of choosing the Independence Stadium for his recent album launch #Saluto is yet another demonstration of this young man’s courage. To hit the biggest arena in town without bringing in a major foreign artist as crowd puller was nothing short of what ya’ll would call daredevil in Yankee Land. But like fate would have it for those with FAITH, the young man pulled it off with class, and so I salute him for this great victory!

Alex, one fine leadership quality I gleaned from research conducted by the Harvard  Business Review that I see in ST is to “Pretend You Have What You Want”. Long before he filled the stadium,  ST Claimed leadership of the domestic music scene. From his hit track “Tas Dekabi” to “Mandinka Warrior” and his latest “Baddest Localo” ST had laid claim to the leadership title well before it became a reality and this is a motivational tactic that has worked for the world’s greatest champions. Unfortunately, due to the petty nature of our small towns people cannot put up with even a little dose of braggadocio in a rap punch line. But what is rap without attacking and upsetting the current set ups?

I have not come across anyone who trash-talked his opponents  and claimed big titles way before he conquered his field more than the boxing legend Muhammëd Ali. He claimed to be the world’s greatest way before he earned it; with persistence and hard work he conquered the world. Yet he is remembered as one of the most humble human beings to have walked the earth.

Alex, our people cannot stand basic self-belief, talk less of top notch self-confidence but this world will surely not be ruled by the meek in this twitter generation. Our people have to understand that claiming a title in advance as “the best in town” is only aspirational and it’s not a crime to insert that in some rap lyrics or free style on stage while you work to earn it.

Indeed when he claimed the title of Kunta Kinteh in his song Mandinka Warrior, I took it from ST and he succumbed. To date he settles for the other phrase in the same line “Lyrical Musa Molloh” and Calls me Kunta Kinteh. But when he came up with “Baddest Localo” and I wanted to claim that too he dug in saying “kaybamaa nteh sonna wo la deh!” Lol! So a tug of war ensued between us on that title but when he hit the stadium and shook the nation to its very musical core, I succumbed and crowned ST the “Baddest Localo”!

So go ahead Alex and stake a claim to some title; just remember that the title is something you are aspiring for and you are using it as an affirmation while working your way to manifest it. ST taught this philosophy in the song “Baddest Localo” when he rapped “mbulo beh santo; n-singo lu beh dooma” (my hand is up; feet on the ground) so remain unapologetic about your self-confidence while constantly being grounded on the reality of your humanness; the realisation of you own flaws and follies. This is true humility as opposed to the hypocrisy of pretending to be humble while disdaining your peers in the recess of your heart.

Treat people with respect and honour; yet do not shy away from throwing the occasional punch (both literal and metaphorical) when the need arises. If prophets had to wage wars to establish the truth and to defend themselves, then don’t be fooled by any misguided ‘new age’ fab of remaining peaceful and docile while the so called universe does it for you!

Alex, this letter is getting long and I know the business man in you cannot spend too much time reading a long winding epistle in the middle of the week, so let me pause here till another time.

But let me close with a tag line from ST, that just raised my respect for his leadership qualities even further. You are a mainstream business guy but I believe on the few occasions you attended live musical events you would hear a rapper ask the DJ, to cut off the track or lower the sound by saying “hold it!”. On December 1st when the nation gathered to celebrate the leader of our music scene here, his calls for the DJ to slow or stop came in classic Mandinka “Nyappi nying kang”

‘Wotto’, Alex,  “nyappi nying kang”  till I send you part two inshaa Allah.


Momodou Sabally

The Gambias Pen