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 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
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
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.
|Group of the year
|| Da Fugitivz
- Chow Panachie
||Da Breeze (Joe)
/ Machu B
by Maslabi Possee
|| Dance Hall Masters
by Santayala Crew
|| Rebellion de
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