A veteran Gambian musician has called for cessation of what he called “demonizing musicians of the 70s.”
Babou Jobe is being pursued for sounding his opinion that the environment is not conducive for a conscious artist.
“I have been publicly – on national radio – lambasted by the Gambian music community itself,” Mr. Jobe writes on Gambia-L. He was prompted to leave a comment on the Facebook Page of the Music Union of the Gambia (MUSIGAM).
He said he was personally blamed for the current dismal situation of the Gambian music scene on MUSIGAM’s Sound Cloud Page.
“(..) the elders who have been here before previously, Badou Jobe, Pa Touray, Pa Njie, Senami, Laba Sosseh whoever, that was their mistake, they did not create that foundation for themselves and maybe for the future coming,” a posting on the music union’s page reads.
Jobe said a similar personal accusation was voiced by MUSIGAM board member Mr. Wisdom in his Facebook post of 16 February 2014. Wisdom said “the fact that your music is free to rip off is partly your fault, those that came before us never did much to set the structures concerned in place out here in Gambia.”
Mr. Jobe wondered why the “young generation is demonizing musicians of the 70’s, making us the scapegoat for your professional tribulations.” He said a demonstration of their resentment, frustration about their own incompetence and lack of lack of inspiration.
Jobe said the truth is that “in the 70’s we, the incriminated musicians, gave up a pop star status as Super Eagles for our vision of an African music renaissance, reflecting our anti-colonial Pan-African principles. We – Pa Touray and I – deliberately disbanded Super Eagles in order to return to our roots. We spent years – and virtually all our savings – researching our cultural heritage, fast fading away under the onslaught of Western music,” he said, explaining how the battle over winning their fans to “our new concept of the Afro Manding sound with our new name of Ifang Bondi. With the Afro Manding sound we are proud to have created a truly African music, now – except in The Gambia itself – one of West Africa’s leading music styles.”
He said “unlike the current self-serving mentality of Gambian musicians, we have always been very conscious and committed to the social struggle. True to our name we addressed social issues and wrongs, speaking up for the people. Ifang Bondi arguably have done more for The Gambia than anyone, including nationwide benefit tours to sponsor rural schools and dispensaries.”
The veteran musician also added that during their career peak there was virtually no public facilities, no proper venues, no million-D presidential dole-outs, no TV, least of all social media, no studios, no telephone, no electricity or tarred roads outside the urban area. “Unlike the current music community demanding to be pampered by the state like babies, we of Ifang Bondi formed our own company, completely independent of the state. We invested our own money to create conditions and facilities – acquiring complete PA system, generators and related transport, training musicians and technicians, touring internationally, organizing festivals, providing fellow bands with instruments.”
He said after all their efforts and investment, they were sabotaged, boycotted and completely ruined by the then regime, until we had no other choice than either give up or leave the country to pursue our career elsewhere. Old Ifang Bondi tapes in the GRTS archives, marked “banned”, “don’t play this song” etc.”
Despite all problems, Mr. Jobe continued to promote Ifang Bondi concept through writing, recording music, training musicians some 50 musicians, organizing international tours, recruiting talented young Gambians, for many of whom Ifang Bondi has served as a springboard for an international career.
Mr. Jobe was disappointed he received total silence from the Gambia when he won the best Kora Award, an accolade he had shared with Boncana Maiga and Wally Badarou. “Kudos came from all over: international media including BBC, RFI, WRD, and fellow musicians, especially from Senegal – the event being televised to a 300 million global audience. But I received total silence from the Gambia.”
Jobe blamed his fellow artists for their failure to endorse his 1996 open letter to the Gambia government, calling the enhancement of the cultural sector, including implementation of long overdue copyright legislation
He also took on MUSIGAM on its statement that “we all talk about the glory days from back in the day but all – with due respect to the elders – that supposed glory was certainly not passed on to us as the new generation.” This, he said, reflected MUSIGAM’s preposterous view of being a music professional.
“You expect to get all facilities and emoluments for free, getting served hand and foot without prove of professional skills or efforts. You even expect “glory” to be included in the package. How can glory be passed on in the first place?”
Mr. Jobe challenged MUSIGAM on so many things, including sacrificing their star status for a vision of an African cultural renaissance. He urged Gambian wannabe musicians to learn to work themselves to the bone to get a career and eke a subsistence out of it. “Nor is glory and talent to be inherited from us, the older generation of musicians. What you DID inherit from us was inspiration for hard work and dedication, and a great comprehensive musical concept, but you chose to squander that inheritance!”
Come on! Let’s have a different story. Shall we??
Indeed Ifang Bondi were a pride for the entire West African Region…..Quality Live Music was thriving at the time in Gambia, with good competition from Guelewar Band.
Thanks Koto Badou
I have to agree with Mr. Jobe, that music and being a musician demands a 110% dedication with a ton of self-awareness. The notion of I-Fang-bondi and the concept of Afro-manding is a homegrown product, thanks to such dedication and steadfastness that Mr. Jobe and Co. endured.
We should be grateful that those before us saved us from the hard work by laying the foundation of a universal music concept. Now is our turn to take it to the next level.