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 music.
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
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 supreme.
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'.