‘Gambian artists need to show respect’

A figure in the Gambian music industry has given reasons for the apparent lack of promotion of music made locally. Speaking to Gambia’s The Point newspaper, Koollife James Kolawole, a promoter and saxophonist, said according to his research Gambian artists only go to the media when they need a favour.

Gambian promoter Koollife James Kolawole
Gambian promoter Koollife James Kolawole

“I was interested as to why there was so much hatred for Gambian music and movies in this nation,” he said.

“I have been to FM stations, GRTS, Gambia business centres, shops, offices, restaurants, taxi garages etc., and all over the place I go a good number of Gambians don’t have much passion for Gambia music and movie.

“A Gambian DJ said Gambian artists need to show them respect and appreciation because non-Gambia artists hire any DJ to work for them directly, and this is the reason why DJs play foreign music most of the time on our shows; because our audience appreciate us than our so-called Gambian artists, our radio listeners sometimes send us gifts and cash as a sign of appreciation, which our own Gambian artistes don’t do. They come around only when they need promotion.”

A part of the problem, as observed by Koollife, may also be the relatively more danceable tunes from other countries. Women “want Gambian beats that will make us remove our high heels,” he said. Gambian women want their “artists to do music that will make us dance and jump”—a need that is currently attended to by music from Nigeria on the continent, and Jamaican music outside of the continent.

Koolife’s comments fit with complaints from Kenyan artists who took to the streets last year to protest the dearth of Kenyan music on Kenyan radio. In the same period Gambian artist Jalex said if he had the powers, he would consider banning foreign music.  “We have to have faith in our products,” he asserted at the time. “We must try to elevate the good things about our beloved nation, to put it on the world map and stop supporting the negative songs sung by foreign artistes.”

For Koollife the solution may be difficult but it is within reach: “It is going to be hard for Gambians to start listening to Gambia music or watch Gambia movies if our Gambian artistes and actors are not showing promoters real appreciation.

“If those artistes are ready to take up the challenge and do music that is similar to Afro rhythm which is leading in Africa now, then Gambians will start falling in love with Gambian vibes.”

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