The OpenMic Festival – Festival of the People

by Oct 22, 2019OpenMic, The Gambia, Videos

It started off as a small monthly street show and has now become the most famous music festival in The Gambia. The OpenMic festival was initiated by promoters Black Lynx Entertainment to bring together Gambian artists to celebrate the power of music.

The Festival of the People

Founders Francis Mendy and Abdou Faye Waagan started their OpenMic project in 2007, holding small events every Friday with an open mic available for anyone who wanted to perform. One year later, they decided to open it up to the whole country. Today the annual festival attracts approximately 15,000 people to Banjul’s Independence Stadium Bakau, over the last weekend of December

That was then

Although the festival’s main aim is the celebration of Gambian musical culture, in 2016 it became a platform for democratic activists. OpenMic was at the heart of the movement that brought down the former dictator Yahya Jammeh. Using the hashtag #GambiaHasDecided, thousands of Gambians went on to the streets to demonstrate against the dictator who refused to resign despite democratic elections producing a new leader. At the OpenMic festival in 2016, artists saw their chance to use their power as musicians and to spread their democratic opinions.

This is now

But those days are long gone. In 2019, the festival will take place for the first time over two days. Hip-hip performances will take place as usual on the first day (December 27th) but in a new departure, OpenMic has invited AfriCourage to present international and national artists on December 28th. Included in the line-up are local musicians (Gee, ST, Killa Ace, Tatadindin and more) and international stars (Baaba Maal, the Ensemble Modern from Germany, Wimme & Rinne from Finland and others). Cooperation, communication and confabulation can be expected!

Inviting the World

Uniquely for a west African festival, the event will be covered live by the European Broadcast Union (EBU), delivering a kick-start for Gambian artists in the international music scene.

Francis Mendy is the co-founder of the OpenMic festival and acts as a creative director for the festival, ensuring that the festival production goes smoothly. As a former radio DJ, it is important for him and his business partner Abdou Faye Waagan to promote young Gambian artists outside The Gambia and to help a wider public find out more about the buzzing Gambian music industry.

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