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Rap Music & Hip Hop in Gambia

 Musicians
Some notable Gambian musical bands playing or have played in the country over the past 10 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 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 artistic brilliance.
 
Categories:   Award winners:
Dance group   Black Nature
Albums Sold   Born Africans
Group of the year   Da Fugitivz
Rap video   "Africa" - Chow Panachie
Singers   Da Breeze (Joe) / Machu B
New single   "Merro" by Maslabi Possee
New group   Dance Hall Masters
Conscious lyrics   "UN" by Santayala Crew
Solo artist   Rebellion de Recaller

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
Djembe Magazine

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