Modern Gambian music has evolved over the years thanks
to influences from Latin America in the late 1960's and 1970s
as well as other countries from the region such as Congolese music
as well as the musical traditions of the Fulas, Jolas, Wolofs
and other ethnic groups.
They all helped to create the uniquely Senegambia style of Mande
Forerunners & Origins:
The legendary band known as the Super Eagles, formed in
the late 1960s, were at the forefront of the post-independence
musical talent to emerge from Gambia. They had gained legendary
status in much of West Africa at this time and toured the UK and
the rest of Europe as well. They were influenced by West African
music styles such as from the Congo as well as by Afro-Cuban Salsa
and Jazz. They were the first modern Mande dance band in the country
and toured widely including to countries such as Senegal and Sierra
Leone as well as a visits to the UK and much of Europe. However,
following the strong Pan-Africanist feeling at the time which
emphasised original indigenous culture they decided to disband
in 1972 and re-formed in 1973 under the new name Ifang Bondi.
Their sound had evolved into a genuine, home- grown Senegambian
style of music combining traditional musical instruments such
as the Kora with the modern electric guitar.
To many they were the pioneers of the Afro-Manding music who paved
the way for other local bands such as Guelewar and other
Senegambian greats including the likes of Baaba Maal and Youssou
N'dour of Ndaga fame.
Mr. N'dour himself has acknowledged their influence on him. Though
they are both Senegalese they likewise influenced modern Gambian
musical culture. Today it is it is N'dour's Mbalax style (helped
along by the singer Viviane, his relation) that reigns
Today many happily combine the traditional with the new such as
the Riti, tama, Kora and sabarr musical instruments with modern
instruments such as the electric guitar, organ, drum and bass
to create a uniquely West African style. The output comes in the
form of Ndaga, Africanized Reggae and Hip Hop with mostly Wolof
or English lyrics but also includes Jola, Mandinka and other
local tongues. Modern and traditional bands include Jalex, Jambedula
Cultural Group, Daniel Jatta, Manding Jatta. Though many
local youths try desperately to get onto the bandwagon a shortage
of cash and a small local market base often hinders any advancement.
Many musicians have been forced to go abroad in particular to
Senegal where they have banded up with other groups.
Thus as can be seen above there is no single style of music that
can be called "Gambian" as the traditional sits side-by-side
with the modern as well as a fusion of the old and the new played
with instruments both indigenous and 'borrowed'.