Meet Noato Kanteh: Japan’s only known Mandinka tantan kusilaa

Written by Saja

Naoto Kanteh is a name well-known to some Mandinka griots in The Gambia. He has been part of the Gambian entertainment industry since 2004 and has taken part in hundreds of cultural events across the country.

Promoting the Mandinka culture in Japan is now his key focus.

“I first came to the Gambia in 2004 after some friends, who were in the country, told me about their experience with Mandinka traditional music. They showed me a tantan they bought during their stay. I liked the sound and that was when I decided that I would visit The Gambia,” Noato told What’s On-Gambia.

He added: “It was in the Central River Region, in a tiny village, where I first witnessed a Mandinka event. It was a manyo program and they had some drummers and female dancers. It was so exciting that I got goosebumps and from there I started learning about the tantan.”

The Japanese disclosed his first teacher was one Mora Camara, who passed away in 2010.

Noato is right now in Japan with his Gambian wife. He said: “I want people to know about The Gambia here in Japan and all over the world.  I usually organise workshops about the tantan in Tokyo, our capital.

When asked what he likes about the Gambia, the drummer retorted: “The people are very kind, the country is peace and the different cultures are beautiful.”