African storyteller drummed out tales

The Cowfoot Prince rocked Campbeltown library. 25_c44usifujalloh01_storyteller

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A review by Mark Davey

Sierre Leone song, dance and drumming were all part of the Cowfoot Prince’s repertoire.

During a packed evening in Campbeltown Library, Usifu Jalloh – the Cowfoot Prince – told folk tales from his homeland.

Speaking a mixture of English and Sierre Leone Creole, a mother tongue formed from various European languages, Usifu described his journey from Oban to Campbeltown and his experiences of ‘Scottishness’.

His powerful opening welcome song using a line which sounded something like: ‘Opi u yang day’ took everyone by surprise.

There was a slightly muted response but, in no time, Usifu had the audience on its feet clapping and chanting.

This was not going to be a regular storytelling session – Listen With Mother style.

Explaining, Creole Usifu said: ‘My language is called Creole and Creole is a mixture of English, German, French and Portuguese all mixed in the one.

‘If I speak slow, slow you may understand but if I speak fast, fast you will understand nothing at all,’ he added, as what sounded like incomprehensible gibberish spewed from his mouth.

A further nearly five minutes of rapid Creole followed.

The audience may have learned it was a long way on the map and in reality from Oban to Campbeltown, there was much greenery and Usifu’s hands, ears and nose were cold.

He finished this rapid repartee and said: ‘Anyway, you get my point don’t you.

‘I am absolutely sure everyone here will get a semblance of what I was saying – that is Creole.

‘It is evidence of how linked we are, how connected we are, so connected that in my country Sierre Leone we have a street called Campbell Street and it could come from nowhere else but here.

‘We have a whole village called MacDonald.

‘Your ancestors left sheep and went to Sierre Leone. I do not know how many DNA they have left there.’

The evening was a once in a lifetime chance to hear a unique and exciting storyteller.

Unfortunately due to another engagement, for the Courier, it was only possible to hear half of Usifu’s message.

Agnes Stewart and Lorna McKinven of CGS4Gambia posted on its Facebook page: ‘We had a very interesting evening of storytelling, song and some nifty moves with Usifu Jalloh.

‘He used to travel to Gambia every year to visit his family. We will be keeping in touch with him in the hope of meeting again at some point in the future.

‘Well done Live Argyll Kintyre for organising this great event.’

The Cowfoot Prince rocked Campbeltown library. 25_c44usifujalloh01_storyteller