notable Gambian musical bands playing or have played in the country
over the past years are Da Fugitivz, Pencha B, DJ Easyboy, Energy
Soundz (Dj Rolexx), Chess, Alassan Sillah a.k.a Dollar
Dripper, Ebony Diamond, Modou Lamin Bah (Egalitarian Mentor),
Maslaa Bi, Smokey aka Smoke Doctor, Hood Hustlers aka Double H, and
the Dancehall Masters to
name but a few.
Many of Gambia's rap artists are young high school leavers, who
have found an alternative to unemployment, a problem slowly gripping
this largely tourist leaning economy. Some are still going to
school though while finding the time to be part of the music scene.
But unlike their colleagues in industrial societies in Europe
and America, Gambian rap artists are yet to face the menace of
drug abuse and gun-totting gangsters. As opposed to many of their
American counterparts, their lyrics are conscious and educational
carrying with them resounding messages calling for peace, faith
and love with the absence of sexually related scenes or showing
any inclination for violence. They talk about poverty, baby dumping,
corruption, prostitution and finally praise God the Almighty.
"We diagnose society, analyse the problem and give
possible solutions. We are doctors in music robes," says
Inspector Chow Panache an accomplished Gambian artist whose lyrics
are well appreciated in Germany.
At the turn of the century, there were over 40 rap groups in the
Gambia of which only 4 had the opportunity to produce albums.
The rest already have enough lyrics to compose albums but do not
have the necessary cash to finance the basic stages of mixing
and recording, which, in local Gambian studios could go up to
US $6,000. As a temporary measure however, rap groups with shaky
financial situations have resorted to producing audio singles
and video clips simultaneously raising funds before heading for
At least, Gambians can now express a sigh of relief that after
years of inactivity, life is now being injected to the music scene
resulting in the frequent composition of lyrics that could be
exhibited at any international festival.
The recent invitation of Da Fugitivz to perform at the international
music festival in Germany adds colour to this assertion. The momentum
if kept, could soon transform this "roots" fame country
into a dazzling centre of music studies.
In the meantime, the skies are the limit.
Kololi is a small new settlement in the western part of the Gambia
with a noted element of cultural diversity in addition to it being
host to Black Nature, a neighbourhood musical gem whose artistic
prowess and explosive lyrics is generally appreciated, if not
envied by many young Gambians.
As the first rap group to release an album, Black Nature is the
flag bearer of rap in the Gambia. But all these shining points
were nearly overlooked, when one of the group's most adored vocalists,
Mystic MC suddenly left the Gambia for Denmark. His departure
fuelled rumours in the Gambia that the group was bound to disintegrate.
When the first national television signals zoomed the airwaves
in the Gambia in 1995, many pundits viewed this development as
yet another white elephant project poised for the slammer. But
little did they realise that this precious national asset - Gambia
Radio & Television Service - would soon be the repository
of entertainment and benchmark of Gambia's music
On July 30th 1999, 'Rap Award '99'
was officially launched at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, an event set
aside to "acknowledge contributions to the Gambia's burgeoning
music industry by fledgling Gambian artists in the rap, reggae
and hip hop genres". The programme, which trailed into the
wee hours of the morning, was a major success characterised by
an impressive show of artistic brilliance.
The packed hall-cum-music theatre, caught in the throb of a hotchpotch
rap, hip-hop and descant Senegambian rhythm, cheered up as the
nominees, mainly young artists with releases, individually appeared
to perform on stage. With the exception of a 30 minute interruption,
in which some ferrous fans in appreciation of the irresistible
performance of Lion Heart, lit smoke lighters to the posh of the
hall, the event however, was itself an appropriate soiree of relaxation,
but above all a fitting indication of the rich flavour embedded
in Gambian music.
After an elaborate performance, the popular television maestro,
Lamin Manga, announced the nominees duly submitted by a panel
of carefully selected judges.
Many are now based overseas such as in Sweden and Denmark in order
to get wider international exposure.
By Abou Jeng