The World is About to Discover a Gem
During preparations for the upcoming festival this year, Francis Mendy, co-founder of the OpenMic Festival, found time to tell us more about the OpenMic festival itself and its impact on Gambian music.
Discovering a musical gem
What role does music play in The Gambia? How does the festival contribute to this?
Music is a great part of our life, from traditional ceremonies, parties, to a private individual just having a good time with music, from the Griot culture to modern day music and everything else in-between. The contributions of OpenMic have been very significant.
I think it is safe to say that it is the number one reference point when you talk about Gambian music. It is an event that has been sustainable throughout the years. It is a new-found love for the young generations, something to be proud of, and something that they feel that they own.
We take into consideration what the people want – for example we have polls to find out who the people want to hear and we take that very seriously. The contribution of the OpenMic festival is really beyond significant for Gambian music, which is also why it has been recognized by the government as part of the national calendar of events. This is how important it is for the entertainment industry of this country.
OpenMic is also responsible for bringing the new wave of Gambian music to Gambian music enthusiast. Prior to OpenMic, the scene was almost dead, so with OpenMic, music lovers and entrepreneurs had something they wanted to support.
What makes the OpenMic Festival special compared to other festivals?
It is unique in The Gambia and the biggest thing that has happened here for the past twelve years! And yet, it is special in the sense that it is a gem hidden from the rest of the world. Even with Senegal surrounding us, they have little to no information about the OpenMic festival. So this year, with the expansion of the AfriCourage day, the world is about to discover a gem! A gem that has been made in The Gambia, by Gambian artists and musicians, and is now ready to invite the world.
It is the People’s event in The Gambia. People partake in everything! In the selection of the artists and many other decisions we seek back for ideas from people’s experience.
What role does Gambian music play in the international music scene?
We are really a speck of dust in the international music scene. Not recognized and nobody really knows what’s happening in The Gambia. Apart from two artists that have played internationally, not much is known about it. Especially with the expansion and AfriCourage and the coverage from the EBU coming, we are hoping to begin a new era. An exhilarating beginning, so that we can take a new, recognizable position. At the moment we are not present, but we would like the world to hear us and to find out what we are up to in The Gambia.