GAMBIA: National jubiliation as social life thrives again in post-Jammeh Gambia

12/Apr/2017   //    Viewers:1706    //    Likes:    //    Shares:    //    Comments:



PARIS, APRIL 12, 2017: (DGW) Gambia's music and musicians are heaving a sigh of relief following Jammeh's dethronement. 

Music is one sure way to expose the ills of the day and this is put into use in most advanced societies but the reverse was reportedly the case while exiled Jammeh held sway in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia.

In this piece below by Ali Hameed, a columnist with Al Jazeera, musicians could now freely express themselves following Jammeh's dethronement and the music industry which almost went into extinction while Jammeh was in power is beginning to thrive again, a survey conducted round the country reveals.

Happy reading:

"If you don't stand for anything. You will fall for anything. Anything, anything. Anything, anything," blast the speakers of a yellow and green taxi in the Gambian capital Banjul as cars jostle for space during the afternoon rush hour.

"Twenty years Yahya done for me anything. Anything, anything. Anything, anything," a rapper shouts angrily as the dreadlocked driver and his passengers rhyme along.

A short distance away in Kairaba Avenue, the city's main thoroughfare, on a newspaper stand beside the road, the cover of G-life magazine reads ANYTHING. It is a reference to the song that was playing in the taxi.

Big Faa is the rapper behind it. A 30-year-old father-of-one, he penned the protest song that has grabbed the nation's attention as a way to share his frustrations following more than two decades of rule by The Gambia's former president, Yahya Jammeh.

Political raps

"Since I was a child I saw a lot of things but I could not open my mouth," he explains as he prepares for a show in Banjul. "Anyone could report you to Jammeh's people and you might not be seen again."

"For example, the drug squads who were supposed to stop people from selling drugs were themselves selling weed and other drugs. If you said anything they will arrest you," Big Faa adds.

Jammeh, who came to power through a military coup in 1994, was forced from power by the regional force ECOWAS in January after refusing to concede defeat in December's election. He went into exile in Equatorial Guinea and many Gambians now say they feel free to express themselves for the first time in decades.

"My latest song, Anything, is about corruption and how it stops us from moving forward. It also talks about things like prostitution and how when the girls bring the money from prostitution home no one says anything," he says, holding a book in one hand and a mic in the other. 

'Jammeh feared musicians'

Unlike neighbouring Senegal, which has a vibrant music scene, the industry in The Gambia has been heavily restricted and underfunded. Many musicians who felt unable to freely express themselves went into exile.

MC Mbaye is another artist breaking his silence after years of staying out of the limelight in Banjul. He is hoping to capitalise on the country's new-found freedom. In a two-bedroom house outside the city he is writing and recording a mix tape that he hopes will put him at the top of the country's music charts.

"You could not make money as a musician unless you were singing songs praising Jammeh," he says. "He corrupted some musicians by giving them money and they made songs for him and also performed for him.

"The whole country has no music school or a good standard studio. Jammeh saw us as a threat and feared we will challenge him," Mbaye adds.''

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