Mbye Ebrima

Mbye Ebrima

Mbye Ebrima, Mandinga, kora player, composer, singer and story teller, was born in Jarra Soma, in the Gambia, in 1988, into a family of griots, kora players and renowned experts in, and disseminators of the Mandiga-Kaabunké oral history for many generations. Ebrima’s father, El–Hadji Alieu Mbye, is a kora player and one the great experts in the region’s oral history. On his mother’s side, Mbye Ebrima comes from another important old family of kora players, the Cissoko of Casamance. His mother, Jabou Susso, the daughter of the great kora player Ablaye Cissoko, sings in traditional Mandinga musical performances. Mbye Ebrima spent his childhood and part of his teenage years in Brikama, at the house of Solo Susso, his mother’s brother and renowned kora master. At 16, he went to live with his father in Serrakunda, and started almost immediately on a fast learning curve in kora and the other dimensions required from a griot, namely learning about the family and the Kaabunké Mandinga history. He worked hard, in within a few months he had learnt how to play kora and began to accompany the griot Mariama Saho, one of his father’s wives. Not long after, he began to participate in performances with his father and a half-brother, Bubacar Mbye, and from 1999/2000, he started to stand in for his father giving kora lessons, when he was absent. At this point, with some friends, he set up the Mama Africa group, comprising kora, balafon, drums, percussion, keyboards and saxophone, performing Afro-Mandinga music with its very own groove. Mama Africa performed in the Gambia and on several occasions in Senegal. Mbye Ebrima also belonged to the Kora Symphony group, created by the Gambian President to perform in official and non-official ceremonies, composed of 30 kora players, where he has been one of six permanent members for 3 years, and a soloist on a number of occasions. In 2013, Mbye Ebraima left for Senegal. A few weeks later, he left for Zimbabwe and then on to Tanzania, where he stayed for a few months. He has taught kora at the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) in Zanzibar, participated in music festivals, recorded a programme for South African television, and performed kora in a number of shows, in taarab, a very popular musical genre in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2014, in a show in Zanzibar, he met one of the directors of the German company Mother Africa, who invited him for a tour in Europe. That year, with Mother Africa, he performed several times in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In February 2015, he settled in Portugal, where he still lives and works as a musician. Since then he has played several times in Portugal and Spain. He has played in various venues such as B.Leza, ISCTE-IUL Auditorium JJ Laginha, Espinho Auditorium, Maus Hábitos in Porto, Salão Brasil in Coimbra, Musibéria in Serpa, the Porto Coliseum (with Kimi Djabaté), and others. He has participated in a number of festivals, such as ‘O Mundo Aqui’ in Ponta Delgada, ‘Encontros’ in Barreiro, ‘Music of the World’ in Seixal, ‘Encontro de Culturas’ in Serpa, ‘OITO24’ in Espinho, and two intercultural festivals in the Azores (Ponta Delgada and Angra do Heroísmo), among others. He recorded one of the concerts in B.Leza and the concert in ISCTE-IUL, for RTP-Africa and RDPÁfrica, respectively. He is currently working solo, in a duo with Raquel Reis, a cellist in the Gulbenkian Orchestra, and with a band.