The Reggae scene has a large following in Gambia and the reggae
singers and bands to look out for are musicians
such as Momodou Sanu Jallow aka Silver Youth, Joloffman, Njie
B , Rankin Fire, Jungle P, Jah
Bless and New Chilly. Many play what could be called Afro-Reggae
and their most influential role model is undoubtedly Bob Marley
and the Wailers.
Reggae genre was born out of the ghettos of the island of Jamaica
in the West Indies. Since then its influence has spread to other
countries and continents around the world. In Gambia Reggae's
influence can be seen in many sections of the community. Among
the youngster, reggae is seen not just as a musical art form but
as an avenue for the spreading of the religious beliefs of Rastafarianism.
One reason for the popularity of reggae are its political themes
and its fight against social injustice as well as calling for
the general upliftment of black people from around the world.
The genre's popularity in Gambia is not surprising bearing in
mind that it has always allied itself with the underprivileged
and deprived in society and advocates equality and justice for
all. This should also be seen in the light of the fact that the
Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world with its fair
share of ghettos. Youths can readily identify with the slum conditions
featured in video clips of everyday, downtown Jamaican.
The African continent's association with Rastafarianism
is not just limited to the visit to Jamaica by His Imperial Majesty
Emperor Haile Selassie's l (Lij Tafari Makonnen) on April 21,
1966 but also to the struggle for independence by various African
nations. Reggae artists, particularly Robert Nesta Marley, continually
drummed home the need for liberation from the yolk of colonialism.
Over the past 20 years or so reggae music has spread among youths
and other sections of Gambian society at a pretty phenomenal rate.
It can be heard in local side streets among the Attaya drinkers,
in peoples houses, restaurants and bars. Many youth have even
opted to speak with a Jamaican accent when conversing with one
of their own and are very knowledgeable about all the big names
in Reggae from the UK to the West Indies such as Buju Banton,
Luciano, Jah Cure, Sizzla, Capleton (King Shango).
||In December 2005 Buju Banton (a.k.a. Gargamel) gained
a lot of fame in Gambia when, at the encouragement of his friend
Lamin Manga, he visited and performed on Christmas Eve and Christmas
Day. His visit helped to further enhance reggaes popularity among
Gambians but as he himself observed "As I walked around,
I was greeted heartily by dread and non-dread that truly embraced
Rastafari." Another artist to grace these shores was the
late Lucky Dube was pleasantly surprised by how much Gambians
knew about his lyrics and the words to his songs. As he performed
in 2000 at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, the youths sang
in unison with him.
One local newspaper has asked the question of why reggae is so
popular in The Gambia? While out in the field an intrepid reporter
got some of the following responses:
One youth named Modou Secka, who was introduced to reggae as far
back as 1985 through artists like Ija Man and Dennis Brown when
reggae was still dominated by the likes of Burning Spear, Peter
Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Culture, Rita Marley, Marcel Griffiths and
others. To him, the music makes him think about issues affecting
society and the world. He described reggae as a way of life. According
to him, his contacts with Jamaicans during his 18 years of stay
in America has made him realize how most Jamaicans strongly feel
attached to Africa as most of them consider themselves as Africans.
He described The Gambia as a "Small Jamaica."
Young Gambian ladies have not been left out of the craze.
Ajie Fatou Njie is one such woman whose preference for reggae
is always apparent. She said the music keeps her strong in her
daily toils in life. "Every morning" she said, "I
listen to reggae before doing anything. Such songs as 'Prison
Walls' by Jah Cure really serve as inspiration to me. Without
reggae I don’t really know what my life would have turned into."
To her, reggae is a means through which black people speak against
an exploitative world system. She quoted Marcus Garvey’s popular
saying that "Ethiopia will stretch forth its hands to God
and princes and princesses shall come out of Africa" for
Reggae's contribution to Africa's immense social and political
transformation has in no way been insignificant. It has inspired
Africa's youth who see joy in associating with a phenomenon that
creates an outlet for social and political consciousness.