Entertainers And The Gambian Struggle


Pata PJ

Throughout the history of Mankind, music has been an integral part of our deals; sort of a therapy. In times of happiness and sorrow, people have always turned to music for consolation and in some cases ‘avenge’ their hurt (diss tracks?) and show grievances when they have little means to undo their circumstances. In the time of the Pharoah, Moses (through God) and the believers went to the Pharoah to demand that the oppressed subjects be let loose. These Israelites were said to have sang ‘Let my people go!’ At the time perhaps, ‘Dictatorship’ might not have been coined but oppression, tyranny and slavery were at their heights.

During Slavery, the Africans that were packed like sardines and shipped to the Americas in chains (hello Kunta Kinteh) and forced to work on plantations among other things, devalued and stripped off their human dignity, attempted to run away from their misery by all means including committing suicide. For those who were not able to escape that bondage, had everything taken away from them but their voices. Thus, they used their voices to ‘sing their troubles away’. Without instruments, in beautifully rhythmic music, they composed impromptu songs that all would find ‘solace’ in. They had that Universal language in music that despite the evident language barriers, they communicated on those fields. Try listen to ‘Hoe Emma Hoe’. And while at it, do see the role of music and artists in the Civil Rights struggle in the United States. The fight against segregation and all vices that came with it were not just in the courts. The ‘strugglers’ had no weapons but they had voices so loud and piercing as spears.

Fast forward to as recently as in the 70s and 80s, the South African Zulus showed the world that there is strength in words so they sang the best hymns and songs that would rattle the most heartless of all. We all watched ‘Sarafina’ and saw how the students got gunned down in the streets armed with nothing but tough hearts and songs, in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre. The rest is history.

So to man, music has not only been a source of entertainment but a subtle yet powerful instrument for political leaders to firm their grip on power. Music has been a thing that oppressive leaders use as propaganda tool, to oil their machinery in an attempt to mask the ills of society that are a result of their ineptitude. It has been their bait for the naïve and the unconcerned. That is why we have seen Dictators like our very own Dr. President Jammeh, showering artists and entertainers with exorbitant amount of cash in foreign currencies while the ferries are stuck in the waters with endangered Gambian lives, hospital structures with no medications forcing patients to be flown out of the country and the unfortunate ones die of curable sicknesses while him and his family enjoy the luxury of first class medical treatments in the world’s finest hospitals. We might think he’s been generous but it is far from it. He calculatedly knows that his gains far outweigh the cost for him personally. While the nation ails, deprived of the needed cash or resources inducements in critical sectors, the president is paying for his image to be cleansed OUTSIDE the country and in some cases inside. Call Sizzla, Erykah Badu, Thione Seck to play for a weekend in Banjul and have the few thousand youths be happy, then on Monday night knock down their doors and snatch their parents before them to be tortured or never be seen again? Do the math to see if that weekend of ‘fun’ and entertainment is worth it. This is the reason concerned Gambians who see through this trajectory, are refusing to allow these artists play the ‘ignorant ball’ and claim ‘we are not familiar with their political landscape’. From Beyonce, 50 Cent, J-Lo to Mariah Careh, that’s what they all claim.

This is why I was shocked to have heard one of the brightest talents in the Gambian music industry call us names and our efforts a BS, when some of us took to twitter to inform Erykah Badu of what prevails in the country. Gibou (Gee) Balla-Gaye undoubtedly is one of the biggest acts in Banjul. I was in the Gambia when he launched his album ‘That Feeling’. I capped five copies of it. I met him at the Village in Senegambia, congratulated him and told him how I am a fan of his. And I meant it. In a piece published my Whats-On Gambia captioned “Gee goes nuts on political activists in the Diaspora…and Erykah Badu’s manager writes to What’s On-Gambia”, Gee was quoted to have said “Fight your politics with whatever, but not our music industry… Going through my tweets and this BS about Erykah Badu not to come to Gambia is pissing me off. Only people saying issh are either on exile or did something here and can’t come back.’ Basically it was the same thing he’s told me when I engaged him on twitter a couple of nights ago. Granted, Gee like any of us, have a right to his opinion and/or political beliefs. He could support any political party of his choice. However, I was disappointed with his line of reasoning and his retorts after I’d told him that Erykah and these artists are exploiting Africans through our awful leadership by using our dictators as Cash Cows. Here is some of that twitter exchange:

Gee ‏@gbgee: Lmao.. da tweets.. I like @fatbellybella she Gangsta.. ! cray world..people spend more time on BS than sortin their own problems n lives out

PJ Khan™ ‏@patapj: @gbgee@fatbellybella LoL my nig! How’s that chick gangsta tho? I think she broke & wants some cash from African dictators 🙂

Gee ‏@gbgee: @patapj@fatbellybella Broke ? its her work bro..here’s da deal y dont u guys come up with da artist fee n pay her, cuz us fans wana see her.

PJ Khan™ ‏@patapj: @gbgee@fatbellybella ha! So we should pay Erykah not to take squandered money from Jammeh? Her job? What about her responsibility?

Gee ‏@gbgee: @patapj@fatbellybella Responsibilities ? like payin her bills u mean.. its her work dat does that for her.. like this performance

PJ Khan™ ‏@patapj: @gbgee@fatbellybella Erykah knows what happened to 50, Beyonce, J-lo when they took squandered millions from tyrants at d expense of d poor

PJ Khan™ ‏@patapj: @gbgee@fatbellybella are you ok with Erykah cashing the millions on a political weekend knowing the state of ferries & hospitals, fam?

Our brother Gee is looking at this ‘waste of time’ as denying him and the fans an opportunity to see their stars, and that artists ‘have bills to pay’’. I put it to him that artists have responsibility to the people and society and only because one needs to eat does not mean that the source of that money shouldn’t matter. I wouldn’t murder or rob an innocent man in the name of paying my bills. In the Gambia, we are brought up to know better. Artists have serious responsibility to use that mic and stage to impact positively and not be conveyors, entrenchers of oppression. Legacies get stained or tarnished. Gee and I wrapped up our conversation on this note:

PJ Khan™ ‏@patapj: @gbgee@Fatushow@fatbellybella since we’re talkn about bills & responsibilities, would u write & dedicate a song to Jammeh just to get paid?

Gee ‏@gbgee: @patapj@Fatushow@fatbellybella I make music for people to feel n relate to… topics n not of a person.. be it anyone..

There is one thing that most of us engaging these artists are interested in. Contrary to the belief that we are denying Gambians the chance to have fun, we have no problem with Independent, Private promoters inviting International Artists to the Gambia. Far from it! For decades, artists have been coming to the Gambia and some of us did attend those shows. Our issue has been with Artists being invited by the President or Government agencies on outrages bills, used as political propaganda to promote the bartered image of a president holding one of the most embarrassing human rights records at the expense of our citizens. These artists who from the airport, go to some luxurious Hotel, to the performance venue, audience with the president never get to see or know You and I’s Gambia. They rake in thousands of dollars that they normally wouldn’t have earned in a year, would fly back and start promoting as if the Gambia is a paradise when ordinary Gambians would look over their shoulders any time they want to cough. A life of fear and intimidation all Gambians live is been sold to the world in gold-coated cases through some washed up artists. The ROOTS HOMECOMING as we knew it has been politicized thus defeating its essence. Kunta Kinta who hailed from Juffureh in the Nuimis, has absolutely NOTHING to do with Jammeh and Kanilai. If it weren’t for politics, how did Kanilai win the bid to have the Homecoming snatched from Juffureh?

The Gambian youth have to understand that we are on the same side with them. We have a shared purpose. We want a better Gambia. We are seeing beyond the surface of things to stick our necks out there for the country we all love dearly. Contrary to charges alleged my Gee, a good number of voices of dissent are not asylees and have no personal issues with the President or his government. We see the Gambia and her anomalies and understand that the repressive political environment would not allow Gambians on the ground to raise their voices against barbarity, disappearances and corruption. Already, we have heard excuses from the Gambia youth saying” I am Not a politician and Not in to Politics” forgetting that EVERYTHING around them today is as political as it gets. Politicians are making decisions for you and in your name, and the laws that they promulgate determine how much of your freedom gets garnished. If, understandably our youth are not able to say or do anything, we please ask that they do not turn against their brothers and sisters, to fall for the regime’s rhetoric charges that we are enemies of the country. That is what they want you to believe. We are not the ones picking you up in the middle of the night. We are not the ones not creating employment opportunities. We are not the ones grabbing your lands and pushing you out of your small businesses. From outside the borders of the Gambia, our ‘struggle’ has not only been cyber warring to make noises, we aim to impact and move the Gambia forward. Something President Jammeh and his regime are not able to do after two decades. Certainly someday, when this fight is over, we’d get to appreciate that we’ve all contributed in laying a brick in the ushering in of a free, democratic Gambia that’d be free of terror and injustice. All efforts are valuable.

Until then, we unashamedly and unapologetically remain defiant to allow Jammeh ruin Gambian lives and waste our resources on frivolous things. In this tech age, we are determined to use all necessary tools available especially social media, in reaching out to all concern to highlight the plight of the Gambians.

For The Gambia Our Homeland!



  1. Yama Gaye

    Well done Pata. This entertainer is a knuclehead big time. So selfish, it is not funny.

  2. Suntou

    Pata, you have taught this ignorant twat that, people matter, This idiots cannot seems to get it. We need to put certain values before entertainment. A great response. Thanks

  3. Suntou

    Vultures with a Mic, their soul is infested with worms, worms germinated from the flesh of the silent voices, Artist Gambia remember a day, the night will fall and the morning rise with patriots singing real songs….stop eating human flesh, have a tough mentality and avoid the lazy option.
    Yeah, the eye of the tyrant is on you, his large ears wide open to his name, and his taste for megamanship unquenchable..don’t help in making a murderer Saint.. Gambian artist wake up!!! Senegalese our neighbours have real singer of youth blood, they collaborated in bring down Wade, change is never bad, it teaches us lessons, lesson that nothing remain the same, our body and souls wheel through life motions…Gambian artist arise from deep slumber. Gee, get some sense in you. Killers have no friends

  4. Cats hissing at an Elephant, Suntou – Mutabaruka and other artistes not need anyone’s approval to go to Gambia’s Roots Homecoming Festival. And by the way, both Senegal and Ghana have far bigger and better organized Homecoming Tours too.

  5. jason Miller

    Dida would you consider what happened to you before your left the Gambia fair? Do you think Gambians should go through what you went through?

  6. Jason Miller: No I don’t, but what has that got to do with Mutabaruka, Erkah Badu or Yousou Ndour??? Governance issues in The Gambia are being properly addressed by funders such as the EU. DUGA’s targeting of ARTISTES is simply nonsensical grand-standing and should be IGNORED.

  7. Jason Miller

    The current government is isolated any attention it gets is used as a propaganda . This festival is government sponsored propaganda. Sensitizing these artist is simply making them aware of the situation in The Gambia .
    You went through it and know what Gambians are going through daily. It is time the whole world knows what Gambians are going through and that includes artists.

  8. Don’t change DUGA’s position Jason. No one objects to “making them aware of the situation in The Gambia”. But do you think Youssou Ndour is unaware??? DUGA’s bullying tactics is that of PREVENTING people from visiting The Gambia. That is what I am objecting to. I think as many people, including artistes, should visit The Gambia – as long as they feel it is safe for them to do so. Infact these artistes are welcomed in HUGE NUMBERS by ORDINARY GAMBIANS who fill Bakau Stadium and other venues to see them. Are DUGA telling us that these ordinary Gambians are FORCED to pay their money to see these artistes??? So if ordinary Gambians appreciate these artistes, why should DUGA try to prevent the artistes from going to entertain their Gambian fans??

  9. One more point about HYPOCRISY. Jaliba Kuyateh has been touring in the Diaspora and I have never heard of a single DUGA letter addressed to him. On the contrary, both in the USA and UK, Gambians have thronged to his shows. Kuyateh is Jammeh’s and Gambia’s favourite – and he has collected money from Jammeh in my presence. Now, if DUGA don’t bother Kuyateh why do they bother other artistes??? Sheer HYPOCRISY, I say!

  10. Suntou

    Dida, with all due respect, I think you have a serious blind spot when it comes comprehending our deep grievances. I am an open advocate of everything culture, roots, blackness, Africanness, what have you. I promote and scream self conscious at every given opportunity or event. I follow Muta seriously and listen to his poetry and philosophy on his radio show whenever I can.
    Given that culture and tradition is what defines a society, roots home coming was there before Dictator Jammeh hijacked it and shift it to Kanilai. I would have even added my voice encouraging Muta or any other musician for that matter to visit and entertain Gambians and make our small country a pride place to visit. However, if a tyrant and murderer hijack such event which are meant to be non-political we will voice our opinions against it. Coming to the Jaliba Kuyateh thing, that is where your blind spot looms large. We have called and spoke against that on several days right here. And Gambians have always been engaging Jaliba Kuyateh to boycott praising Jammeh. Jaliba himself was threaten with death, We are not leaving out Jaliba, he knows Gambians despise his association with Jammeh. If the roots event is non-political, you will not even hear anyone comment on it. But Jammeh politicised everything and takes advantage of people in such event selling his cult personality.
    Let Jammeh leave culture lovers to enjoy their roots without his baggage associated with it. That is all we are calling for. Unless, we confront tyrants and see them for what they are, nothing will restrain them, absolutely nothing.

  11. Lafia Touray la Manju

    I think this Gee is lobbying for his father’s reinstatement as Finance Minister. This is all they believe in; big titles and power.

  12. Suntou, Churchills is an English Pub near Palma Rima. The English there always say that “Dida does not understand Gambians” … implying that they do. These Toubabs are happy in The Gambia, Suntou, because whenever they see our madness and emotionalism they have a standard three letter answer: TIA – meaning This is Africa. I have understood Africa and The Gambia all my life … and if we are to move forward we cannot accept the defeatist TIA mentality.

    But that also means we must respond with our heads and not with emotions. Remember the departing speech of Ambassador White of the USA on Gambian Journalism? “Emotionalism” and without “analysis”, she said.

    I think this your reaction to Mutabaraka is what the Ambassador calls “emotionalism”: “Vultures with a Mic … their soul is infested with worms … don’t help in making a murderer Saint … get some sense in you. Killers have no friends”.

    When the UKRAINE coup took place, I said that “The USA is playing marbles while Putin is playing chess”. Today, Putin visited Crimea like a conquering hero. Meanwhile, US & Ukraine leaders desperately try to force Putin to invade the whole country with military force – to destroy Russia’s economic and political ties to Europe. But Putin is smart, and he is playing a slow, non-emotional game of chess: why invade now? Why invade next year? Ukraine will remain on Russia’s doorstep forever – and can be swallowed up at Russia’s convenience.

    Back to Gambia Suntou. My in-laws need to learn to play chess (or at least start with a four-set solitaire on your computer!). Jammeh has been playing an amazing game of chess for the last twenty years (except for obvious emotionalism such as “Witch-hunting” and the “Wallai Billai Tallai I will kill in Mile 2” which have destroyed ties with the Europe).

    So, I don’t have “a blind spot” and I do understand Gambians. Play chess instead of marbles; think and analyse instead of emotionalism; do the Muhammed Ali 100mph brain shuffle, instead of the Senegambian wrestler’s grab and throw.

  13. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Halake, I agree with everything you said about Jaliba kuyateh. He is another type. Those who made him what he is today in The Gambia are currently suffering, and he Jaliba cannot claim to be oblivious to that.

  14. Credit has to be given to those in the diaspora, who have taken a leading and prominent stance against Yaya Jammeh’s madness in The Gambia..

    Their unwavering and widely publicised stance against the brutal dictatorship has directed public attention towards Banjul and succeeded in putting the regime under the spotlight and under enormous strain…

    This stance, will no doubt be a contributing factor,if and when,the tide finally turns against Jammeh,leading to.his downfall…

    However,without pretending to be an analyst of whatever sort, I strongly believe that the efforts to remove Jammeh will not succeed without the support of the masses in The Gambia, especially the youths…

    Diaspora activists,therefore,must avoid futile activities/strategies that achieve very little, if anything, but may destroy a lot of the progress that they have so far made…Regardless of the political/economic situation of the country,many people still live a social life that also involves lots of entertainment and they would sell their limbs (if you know what I mean) to grace concerts/dances of their favourite artists…

    And in The Gambia,they don’t come bigger than Youssou Ndour, Thione Seck,and most Reggae/R&B Artists…

    To pursue a strategy that maligns popular, world renown artists (in a cause they are probably uninterested),and attempts to deny the youths their dreams of gracing the much anticipated concerts by their idols,is NOT going to endear our struggle in their hearts and minds…On the contrary, it may have the opposite effects of what we intend to achieve, if we have clear objectives for this strategy…

    Roots Home Coming Festival will definitely attract international attention, especially if big stars and personalities turn up for the event, but how often is it held..? Once a year..!

    Does anybody believe that the presence of Matabaruka, for instance, is going to change the position of international, regional, or continental bodies on poor governance and lack of respect for fundamental rights by the Jammeh regime..?

    DUGA and all other groups have the right to decide what strategies they wish to pursue to achieve their goals of regime change, but I think it will be in everyone’s interest if they do not take their eyes off the ball and waste valuable time and resources on what is definitely, “A WILD GOOSE CHASE”…

    The Gambia WILL NOT STAND STILL until Jammeh goes…People will.continue to live their lives, as much as they can,and the entertainment is part of that…

    DO NOT take that away from them or you might loose valuable support and sympathy…

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