The entertainment industry plays a crucial role in the socio-economic development of any nation. Aside from its ability to teach and strengthen societal values, the industry has become a branding tool which can be used to communicate and promote national ethos.
It is with this understanding that when the July 22nd Revolution came to being, it tried to open as many doors or window of opportunities for young artistes to showcase their talents in the music industry. The commissioning of The Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) in 1995 did not only create entertainment platforms for young talents to be featured on TV, but has equally inspired a number of budding artistes. This has enabled many of them the opportunity to attract more fan base in the industry. The advent of the July 22nd Revolution in other words came as a blessing for many Gambians as it has transformed every sector in the country including the entertainment industry. During these 22 years, the industry has witnessed a radical change, giving assurance to many of the nation’s youths, especially those who with a strong passion for music and believe in its power.
As a result, the country has witnessed the emergence of young artistes who are making their mark on the scene at the moment. Groups like Swag Mansa Kunda in Bakau, dancehall artiste Volta a.k.a Ismael Darboe, Jizzle, Bizzle, Artenola, Rupey Mace, Vypa, Qibla, Gee, Bai Babu, Jali Madi just to name a few, are many of the country’s finest artistes that were discovered in the Second Republic. Music festivals also sprang up in the country with the biggest of such being the Open Mic Festival organised by Black Lynx. These are all possible due to the enabling environment created by government for the youth to discover their talents.
For one artiste like Bigger Rozay, the 22nd July Revolution gave him hope that he could pursue his dream to become an artiste that he has always wanted. “It brought along good platforms to showcase and follow our dreams in music”.
Another budding artiste, Musa Jallow widely known by his sobriquet Lil Moss from Basse said the Second Republic has been a blessing to both the people and the entertainment scene in The Gambia.
“Back then in the First Republic, music was made but not as recognised as it is now in the Second Republic. The Gambia has gone global and I must say it has helped improve the country’s entertainment to flourish,” he added.
Waka Jagne is a renowned Gambian music promoter based in The UK. For him, the revolution has changed a lot. “We are now seeing our artistes performing live bands now. We’ve seen the financial support from the President meant to encourage rising artistes and also providing them with a platform to perform regularly at state functions. GRTS has also played a huge part by showing music videos and giving artistes the platform to show their talents. One can say now the Gambian music scene is on the up.”
However, it is interesting to state that when the President thought of the idea to establish a national TV, some skeptics especially the so-called experts were totally dismissive of the idea. But widely known for his pragmatic leadership and foresight, he went ahead and this has paid off when the government commissioned the Television in December 1995 under the auspices of The Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL).
So the coming of national TV has changed the status-quo as to how Gambian music is viewed and perceived. The television for many was one of the biggest achievements of the revolution.
Also, the advent of the television has also witnessed a surge in the number of young artistes especially with the introduction of ‘Extra Touch’, a weekly entertainment slot on GRTS in its early days. This was anchored by Lamin Manga, now Deputy Managing Director of the said institution. This weekly entertainment slot played a huge role in the promotion of urban Gambian music.
Before the Second Republic, music lovers in the country had no alternative but to tune into Senegalese TV channels whenever they wanted to watch television.
President’s Financial Support to Artistes
Since 1994, the Gambian Leader His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh Babili Mansa has supported and empowered a number of Gambian artistes both home and abroad on their various projects. This has catapulted some of these musicians to international scene. some of these are now developing their careers on the global stage.
In several instances, the President gave out cash to young artistes unreported in the media. This is just to empower them and uplift their status in the global music scene.
by Sheriff Janko & Alpha M. Kamara