Sixty years ago, if anyone had told you Gambian music would still be struggling in 2020, it would have sounded absurd. That is because even though Gambian music was at its embryonic stage but the signs were already promising with vibrant bands and artistes known and keenly followed across the region. However, nearly six decades after independence, our music industry lacks the necessary support to flourish as opposed to other countries, especially in the sub-region.
Gambian music industry started in the 1960s with formidable bands that rocked the world during that era, these bands include The Super Eagles and Guelewa. Since then, from traditional music to modern genres, Gambian musicians continue to contribute significantly in the promotion of the country’s diverse culture.
There are a range of issues that primarily rest on general unawareness of the massive and unique potential of cultural industries, especially the music sector, which can simultaneously market The Gambia and bring exponential opportunities for growth and education; civic awareness and a great interest in the country’s arts.
Any serious venture towards a musical surge to drive the sector begins with the understanding, if these prospects that breed a strong tradition of national awareness and appreciation are crucial to inspire deliberate investment in to the development of cultural industries. Like many sectors, Gambian music suffers from the dearth of collective appreciation and investment. And it’s not for lack of trying. As a country we have made significant headways in developing structures to organize and enhance cultural industries such as the music and art sector but our strategies have not always favored sustainability to yield desired outcomes.
The results have been an underwhelming global breakthrough vastly underrating the country’s musical potentials even after helping to prop up flourishing industries in the subregion.
Senegal, our closest neighbor has always drawn inspiration from The Gambia’s creative bequest with the country’s biggest names from Youssou N’Dour to Ismaila Lo and Thione Seck, mastering their craft in The Gambia during the capital’s heydays.
Banjul itself was once a city bustling with musical life, bands and pop culture that project an ambition, creativity and savviness rarely seen in those days.
But again, our efforts in sustainability have always crumbled at the fine peak. Let’s examine the landscape a bit closer.
The National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) is a great initiative but how far have we come in establishing standard practice from copyright issues to intellectual property protection. Gambian music and arts is easy hamburgers for any capitalising ventures. Most will leave original creators in trance whilst they flourish elsewhere.
Fiscal support to industry players is a non-priority that continues to derail breakthroughs. Even the best in the west needed support at the beginning. While the country continues to produce top talents in the industry; Jizzle, ST, Attack, etc., the government needs to chip in and support our creative industry, especially music. If not, and we have already seen this, people would rather patronise music from other countries than their own.