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.
The 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
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
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 her belief.
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.