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.
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
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 the studios.
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 promotion.
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
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
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