Jorelik Tibon — sportsman, musician, member of Nitijela, government secretary, and ship pilot — died unexpectedly Tuesday after collapsing at his home in Laura.
Jorelik Tibon was a legend in Marshallese music. He was the leader of the legendary band Kabo Lal that started in the late 1970’s, which was a singing duo lead by him and his wife Lydia with vocal back up by Rosen Tarbwilin, Lakumi Hanerg and lead guitar by Carlson Domnick. Carlson was also the lead guitarist for the Laura Settlers.
Jorelik is highly regarded by all Marshallese musicians young and old. He was a musician’s musician. His compositions were all originals and that stood out from everyone else to this day. His lyrics were mostly about his life experiences. What was amazing to me and I’m sure to many others was his brilliant ability to share his life experiences metaphorically in the context of folklore and traditional knowledge through his music. He started making music in his youth but his passion for it never faded one bit.
He knew the importance of music to Marshallese culture and always jumped in to support it no matter how busy he was because he always wanted to encourage other musicians.
Just recently in August of last year when we did the KOTAK DRON 2020 Concert, he joined us to bring awareness to this deadly Covid-19 pandemic to Marshallese all around the world. During that time there was an outbreak of a number of flu and mosquito borne viruses going around in the community. A number of the artists got pretty sick during that time, including Jorelik. But despite not feeling well, he carried on with practice sessions days ahead and went on to perform during the concert, which was his last.
We became good friends through our common passion for music and were discussing some audio and video recordings. I’m sad that those projects will not be, but I am very grateful for his friendship and for the work that we did do together. His last performance which was the KOTAK DRON concert is still available to view online.