Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Gambia: Entertainment Industry Is Growing

Once a dull business, the Street Rap Battle injects vigour in would-be singers to join a growing Gambian music industry

Perhaps, one sector where the West African country's FLAG FLIES HIGHEST in 2013, is the entertainment industry. 
From the launch of a D1.5 million project by the Manding Morry Academy of Music in January, the Straight from Jupiter Entertainment first Cypher Street Rap Battle in April, to Brain Kracka’s November 30 called-off mix-tape launch – Gambia’s entertainment is surely growing.

Relax and enjoy The Voice Vibes pick of some of the major entertainment events in 2013 that involved Gambians in and out of the ‘Smiling Coast’.

At the beginning of the year, precisely January 16, the MandingMorry Academy of Music (MAM) and Foundation of Performing Art (MANFOPA) launch the music academy with a 1.5 million Dalasi project. Its lectures include music language and music notes, vocals and songwriting, drumming, guitar, African instrument, music business and administratio. The academy has an equipped music studio for practical work and recording.

On the weekend of 25-27 January, the Ariwa Back to Africa Festival returned with its 2nd Edition that was aimed at promoting African cultural norms and values.  Held at Batokunku village, Kombo south district, West Coast Region, the festival attracted both local and international DJs and artists. “Africans should   stand up and embrace African cultural norms and values - that is why I setup the Back to Africa Dub Festival,” said Neil Fraser alias Mad Professor, proprietor Ariwa recording studio.

On February 17, Briks-Tone Fiesta hit centre stage. Initiated and hosted in Brikama by the multicultural music promoters, Badinyaa One Family Promotions and the Stand Tall Promotion of Glasgow, Scotland. The 4th annual music and cultural festival was held under the theme “A healthy nation is a wealthy nation” and proceeds given to the Brikama major health centre.
Jahseen Foster (Tenza Di Bozz Lady), a Jamaican UK-based reggae dancehall artist, was decorated “Goodwill Ambassador” of the Brikama Health Centre in recognition of her valuable role in raising funds for the health centre. Tenza told Voice Vibes: “I feel honoured to be part of this wonderful crusade... I was given a wonderful reception which I never expect... Brikama major health centre decorated me as a Goodwill Ambassador and I will always be available to raise fund for the health centre at any time they need.”

In March, pop star Singateh toured European countries Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and France to promote his ‘Mansa Kay’ album. Singateh toured Europe alongside Mam Balla, a former Gambia-based Senegalese singer.

On March 9, it was a double rhythm launch for the Ghetto Boy Music Production to mark its second year Afro-Wave Festival with the ‘Gentleman rhythm’ and the ‘Upcoming rhythm’.
Its executive producer, Nova, explained: “The ‘Upcoming rhythm’ is a backup for upcoming artists who are willing to become great in the future. It is a source of encouragement.”

On April 2, Germany-based producers I Dobs Records signed Gambian hip hop artist Trouble Smallz during a European tour. “I signed a deal with I Dobs. They recorded some rhythms which I am part of... that will be released in few months,” Smallz said of I Dobs which has produced Jamaican artists like Jinjah Man, Natty King, and Queen Ifrica.

On April 6, then comes Straight from Jupiter Entertainment with the first Cypher Street Rap Battles, a street hip hop rap competition for 16 youngsters. Jupiter Entertainment said the event is geared towards opening doors for new talents in hip hop and rap music. On October 5, Lil Omz was announced winner of the Cyper Street Rap Battle. Omz was given D10, 000, to record for free a mix tape and a video. Mahu Mindev, Kelspect and Daddy Ous emerged 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively.

From the street battles to edutainment as POETIC X went on a Music Education and Development, MED, tour on April 20. The rap group partnered with the Senegalese School in Kanifing to hold the tour in three stages: blood donor exercise in the morning, conference in the afternoon and musical concerts in the evening. “The aims and objectives of the MED were to participate in developing our country by initiating meaningful projects and also put out positive messages to the people,” Ousman Cham, Manager of Poetic X said.

On April 15, Afro-Manding singer Badibunka terminated his contract with Shy Boy Entertainment. The break off was due to what the singer perceived to be an unproductive contract and higher shares for the record label. “Yes I left last week, but we are yet to sign the contract termination paper,” Badibunka told Voice Vibes two days later. Singer Bro K lunched his mix-tape ‘Kumakeso’ on April 26 and says he intends to drop an album in 2014. “After the launch I will be working on my debut album for 2014, though I intended to release it this year but due to lack of sponsors I pushed it to early 2014,” Bro K said.

A day after, Everton staged Blender concert in The Gambia, the Jamaican raggae artist Everton Blender performed at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, backed by South Africa’s All the Nations Band and some of Gambia’s finest deejays namely: G Faaloutter, G Click and Fire Man.

By May 24, it was time to honour respected Gambian veteran singer Musa Ngum. He was given a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Washington DC-based Gambia American Association (GAA). For over 40 years, Ngum through his extraordinary body of work as one of Africa’s leading musicians, helped inspire and place his beloved country on the music world map.

So Jalimadi perform to a cultural carnival in the UK on May 25 hosted by The Gambia United Society (GUS) and meant to award Society fellowship and officially launch the GUSMagazine. But it was time to honour entertainment journalists at the end of the month. They, DJs and promoters were honoured for their hard work and dedication toward The Gambia’s music industry on 31 May – with Kebba Camara of Foroyaa/Star Fm winning the overall Best Gambian Entertainment Journalists.
The awards came just as Raggae singer Dr. Olugander embark on a tour of Sweden, Austria and Italy in May and June 2013.  “I appeared in an international CD compilation by Cologne Reggae Connection in a rhythm called Rebel Riddim, and one called Vibez Riddim which features different artists. We working tirelessly every second, representing The Gambia as my past album says: ‘Little Gambia’”, Olugander said.

On June 21-23, hip hop singer Killah Ace represented Gambia in the 8th edition of the International Festival of Hip-Hop and Urban Culture in Dakar, Senegal. He performed at the Special Fete De la Musique host by Zimbabwean artist NTM at Institute François De Dakar and also at a Mega Concert De Cloture at the complex culture Leppord Sedar Senegore in Pikine.
Amadou Fall Ba, director general of the International Festival, said the festival is meant to promote and developed urban culture in Africa in the field of graffiti, rap, DJing, slam, beat box, break dance, exhibition of arts materials and workshop. Killah Ace was part of musicians drawn from Africa, USA, South America and Europe. Ace went on to release his debut album ‘Another Critical experiment’ on December 14. It is produced by Swedish Record label Nordsteel-(Bright light).

A ‘Kora special night’ was hosted by Star GSM and Star Fm on June 28 at Jokor Momunent designed to bring all the Kora players and artists in The Gambia under one platform to promote Gambia’s own Kora instruments - the same night that the Humanity Starz launched their ‘Jotna’ album.

In London on June 28, Gambian-Senegalese model emerged winner of the Africa Fashion Week London (AFWL 2013). The UK-based 24-year-old Gambian model’s role as Face of Africa Fashion Week London will see her represent the event on all promotional material and social platforms. But more awards were to follow as two Gambians win African Oscars. Gambian female actress Fatima Jabbe won Best Actress in the 2013 Nollywood and African Film Critics’ Awards (NAFCA), while Ibraheem Ceesay, Director of ‘The Hand of Fate’ movie, was also voted Best Indigenous Film Africa’s Oscars, held in Washington, USA.

On September 5, Gambian hip-hop singer, Nova, was charged with “criminal trespass” and “willful damage of property”. NFamara Sambou appeared at the Bundung Magistrates’ Court and pleaded not guilty to the two charges brought against him by the police. He was granted bail in the sum of D200, 000 with two Gambian sureties, and was not represented by a counsel.
He was accused of damaging Star FM’s studio properties valued at D127, 650. The case was later withdrawn from the court.

The social justice film ‘The hand of fate’ which was launched on February 1 explores the theme of early marriage and its negative effects on the development of young girls. The year ended on a high note even before December, with Brain Kracka’s mix-tape launch ‘Dama Yii’. The organisers were forced to call-off the event due to overcrowding after four fans collapsed. 3000 tickets were sold and about 4000 others could not have access to November 30 event at the Alliance Française – a sign of love and appreciation of Kracka’s songs and Gambian music.  

The year ends with the 6th edition of Black Lynx Open Mic Festival on December 27, 2013 hosted at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. The Open Mic which began as a monthly ‘hood-to-hood Street Stage shows’ is designed to expose hidden talents in Gambian music. As Gambia’s biggest musical night, it has showcased some of Gambia’s finest young singers in recent years.

Compiled and written by Bakary Ceesay for the Serekunda-based privately-owned The Voice newspaper where a version of this report first appeared on December 30, 2013. Ceesay runs The Voice Vibes column, and also the owner and administrator of the facebook page Entertainment Magazine. 

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