Gambia’s Music Scene and Current Trends

by Nov 4, 2019Bakary Ceesay, The Gambia

The music scene in The Gambia is growing. Many young people are becoming active in music, building their careers and working towards creating a livelihood through the art of music, and now official steps are being taken to support the creative economy.

The Gambian music scene is growing

The Gambia’s booming music industry began in the late 1960s and 70s with great bands that rocked the world, such as The Super Eagles and Guelewar. Today, with the support of fans who believe in Gambian music, Gambia artistes are taking their music to a broader public. In earlier times, it was only the big names who managed to obtain visas to perform abroad but, in August 2019, there were 53 Gambians artistes performing across Europe. Gambian music videos are broadcast by major international TV stations (Boom TV, Trace TV, TFM among others) across the globe. Many hail this development as a springboard which can be used to export Gambia’s unique culture.

Cultural expression also brings tangible economic benefits. As musicians’ careers become global, encouraging the creation of new platforms and forums is paramount. In The Gambia, stakeholders are creating platforms and supporting existing music foundations to firther develop the skills of artists. Efforts are being undertaken by stakeholders to support practitioners in their creative endeavors. One area of opportunity is the urgent need for engineers and instrumentalists – many artistes, lacking a proper band, are unable to offer live music performances to the audience.

A growing music market

In 2018, ST launched his award-winning album ‘Saluto’ in Banjul’s Independence stadium: this was a historic event, and the 35,000 capacity stadium was full. The venue has been sold out in the past by famous foreign artistes but today more and more local artistes are filling the stadium, thanks to the support of their growing fan communities. A selection of other prominent artistes would include A2, Bai Babu, Barahama, Big Faa, Black Thunder, Cess Ngum, Deejay Limbo, ENC, Gee, Jali Madi, Jizzle, Killa Ace, Nobles, Royal Messenger, Rebellion D’Recaller, Sophia, ST and T. Smallz. The Gambian music market is growing fast and Gambian artists stand a great chance to benefit from this process of transformation.

Enhanced infrastructure

The Gambia’s developing music scene has also witnessed great transformation in the enactment of new copyright laws and institutions. The Gambia Copyright Act of 2004 replaced outdated copyright laws from 1915 and, in 2013, the Gambia Collecting Society was created, to document public use of recordings and to ensure that musicans and composers whose work is used in public are renumerated.

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture has created the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC), to promote and develop Gambian culture. In 2019, they appointed ST, Sona Jobarteh and Jaliba Kuyateh as Gambia Cultural ambassadors. The NCAC also revived the affiliated associations of the Gambia Music Union, the Gambia Music Promoter and Producers Association and the Gambia Music Producers Association by putting new leadership in place in an effort to stimulate the Gambian music industry.

These activities can turbo-charge the cultural economy of The Gambia, enabling Gambian artists to take their rightful place upon the world stage and bringing benefits to those involved with the creation and dissemination of the unique culture of The Gambia.

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