The Gambia’s celebrated reggae artist believes that the respect for Africa and her people lies with the continent’s unity.
Demba Conta was born in Niani Yona in the Central River Region in the 50s. He rose to fame in the mid-80s when he hit the music scene like a storm with his first album Monkey Business. Demba’s second album, the United States of Africa, became more appealing to the world. The album’s content is very rich, and easily sends one into deep thinking.
He said Africa’s salvation depends on the continent’s ability to become one nation. The reggae king said the continent’s many problems were exacerbated by the colonial masters who drew boundaries for their selfish interest. “These are intently done by the colonial people to exploit our countries. unless we break the boundaries, we can never be respected as a people,” Stockholm-based artist said.
Demba Conta was born a royal but chose music purposely to voice out Africa’s numerous problems. Most of Conta’s songs are a reflection of his feelings about Africans, particularly Blacks, who have encountered many difficulties in Europe. “These problems are occuring because of lack of respect for Africa and Africans, generally the blacks,” Conta said. Mr. Conta saw the need to put matters into music so that people understand the problems and what we really need to deal with them.
Conta feels very bad anytime black people are discriminated against. He becomes equally distubed when he understands that somebody at an advantaged position forged the continent’s history. “When you are not in a position to make this known to people as an African, you feel very bad,” he said.
Demba was also concerned about the apatheid rule in South Africa. Despite having tears on his eyes, Conta remained upbeat of the fall of apatheid. “You can only cry in those days but I was hopeful that the impossible would happen. Five years later Nelson Mandela was released.”
Demba’s passion for music started during the height of the Gambia’s struggle for independence when sikko, the two-sided drum was born. He left the Gambia for Europe in early 70s. Demba initially worked as a sailor before settling in Sweden where he did his ground school. Conta was unschooled when he left home. He became interested in music and his passion galvanized when he met some of Bob Marley’s band members. He is expected to release a new album.
Demba Conta’s real music passion started in the 70s when political life started in the Gambia, resulting to the birth of sikko, a two-sided drum. As a child, sikko influenced Demba who secretly sneaked to attend. “That is where my music interest developed. When I left the Gambia, I became more and more interested in music and continue to develop my music skills.”
Demba Conta is gifted with the skills to compose his own songs. “I never sing anyone’s songs,” he said.
Mr. Conta’s full audio interview in English and Mandinka is available on Kairo Radio on Tuesday.
Did you ask him about what his position is on todays gambia?
Good question sidi.