Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gambia: Music Industry or Music Scene

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Views from music producers, artists, promoters and managers have revealed contradictory responses to the question, is there a Music Industry in The Gambia?
The responses, contained in a music documentary involving 30 players in the music sector, said there exist a music scene in The Gambia and not necessarily a music industry and vice versa.
“SOUTH GAMBIA Volume 1”, a “Usual Suspects” production in association with “Hot Ink Media” was unveiled on Friday, April 15, 2011 at Ozio (former Cotton club) in Fajara.  The DVD contains a music documentary, profiles of artists and music videos. The two and a half hours DVD contains interviews with some top figures in the modern music scene with an insightful look into the lives artists.

Among them Ooz, Gungeeman, DLC, Tasman, Essay, MLK, Smoke Doctah, Mohawk, Singhateh, I.B, Amie Dibba, MLC, Xmyles and Wagan, Njie B, Poetic X, T Smallz, Abdou Karim John, Shy Boy Entertainment, DJ Pisces, Fugitivz, Oko Drammeh amongst others.
South Gambia was created to provide a platform for the sharing of ideas as to how we can change this young music ‘scene’ into an industry, the producers said. The initiative, which started in 2009, is the first of its kind, giving an insight into young Gambian artists and the developing music scene. The DVD also contains as a behind the scenes look on the making of the first volume of “South Gambia”.
It caters to a demographic of the young, ambitious, proud and eager youths who so desire to see change in approach and attitude towards celebrating their own.
According to the producers, the DVD is aimed at changing the way music and arts is perceived in The Gambia; to provide an avenue for our own to be seen and heard internationally; encourage investment into a vibrant music scene; create a platform for all emerging artists from The Gambia; and to support the youth-based activity towards corporate social responsibility.
The “Usual Suspect” said it intends to hold a month long promotion of the DVD prior to its launch and as well through its website . They also intends to distribute up to 10, 000 copies of the DVD worldwide within a year, with three online outlets, and 14 distribution partners.        

Missing link
As per the documentary aspect of SOUTH GAMBIA, the various interviewees thing the missing link to develop what they called a “music scene” into a “music industry” is the “Money”. Artists need to be paid much money to perform in concerts.
The Gambia was a home to music in the 1960s and 70s; in fact, top Senegalese musicians like Youssou N’doure have had a spell in Banjul to develop their music careers. However, the Shout Gambia Volume 1 reveals that the country started loosing its music power and progress in the 70s towards the 80s.
However, they did not loose sight of the revival of the music in the country from the late 1990s and the early 2000s, of which rap, reggae, and mix music raised high.
Today, the sector is been described as being young, and the documentary revealed that getting the final product readily available to the public is a big challenge. Low respect for home grown artists and the low level of investment into music also remains challenges to Gambian music.
Some of the people interviewed by South Gambia are of the opinion that The Gambia Government should step in or step up efforts to ensure a vibrant music industry. Various artists lamented that the “Copyright Law 2004” is rather non-existent, a clear testimony of the lack of implementation of laws in the country.
The Gambia Music Association (GMA), which was established in 2004 to steer music to a higher level, has since become a flop. The GMA died even before setting a firm footing into the entertainment sector.

Dance SA’ Yard 
To some, it does matter that artists acclaim local fame before international. It is believed that in order for an artist to be known internationally, he or she must have become a household name in his home country.
However, to others, its does not really matter, because if an artist is known internationally, definitely you will be well known in home contrary. “I prefer to be known internationally than in my country,” Vex Gungeeman, a controversial singer of dancehall and bashment with a twist of hip-hop, said.

Pushing a 1000 CDs
Its rather embarrassing to note that majority of Gambian musicians finds it difficult to sell up to 1000 CDs after releasing their albums. It’s hard, it’s not hard was the response from some of the artists in the documentary.
A few claimed they have sold up to 800 Compact Discs (CDs), and the reality is Gambians do not buy home-made music, leaving the artists with rather a relatively small market centered around family members, friends and fans.
This bring further arguments as to how vibrant is the music sector. It is also a testimony that not much is being produced and consumed as far as home music is concern, and the reality is that there seems a non-existent music industry but rather a music scene.
“People will be asking you when will the album be out, and if it is out they will not buy a single CD,” an artist lamented.

What has changed?
It has been agreed that a lot have change in today’s Gambian music, with the establishment of home recording studios like Bull Doff Records, Shy Boy Entertainment, and Gander Productions etc.
Home-based Gambian artists have also been internationally exposed while a good number of abroad-based singers are carving names for themselves; a good example is Rebellion D’ Recaller. 
The way people receive local music is also believed to have changed, with local FM Radio stations, who has been accused for so long of playing more of international music than local music, have all put in place special hours of featuring purely home music.
However, this seems not to be enough still as some stations air such programmes once or twice a week only.
The people involved in the production of the DVD, SOUTH GAMBIA VOLUME 1 are Bankie Grey-Johnson, Director; Muhammed Mbowe, Video Grapher  and Fatou Z. Drammeh (Usual Suspects).
The Documentary will be played on Big Screen at Duplex, Senegambia on April 22, 2011, with performances by Gee and Killa Ace, Amie Dibba, MLC. 

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