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Oko Drameh profiles the roots of Bakau Music

Manding Sounds
THE SIKO DRUMS
The Mandinka word Siko is derived from the Nigerian word fully pronounced as ASIKO. These hand percussion groups have their music in the foot bass drum, Bata (Pakin drums)drums rattling bass beats as dun-dun drums doing the improvisation. Since Bata Drums are sacred to the Pakin Secret society and there is no such society and Nigerian community in Bakau then they settled to using sharers. There was a Great Siko group at BOJANG KUNDA in Bakau. They were great and have a carnival theme parade atmosphere that ends in a drum circle. The beat is a complex mix of wollof and Mandingo beats and singing in rhymes and rhythm giving the beat groove and improvisation a Bakau flavour. They use a bass drum and side Cow skin face and played with sticks, applauded by group dance and street parade. The home based Bakau Siko Group was a wonderful rhythmic combo (Hand percussions and shakers group) lead by Musa Drammeh. It was the first Siko group to have a bass drum pedal which gave the sound an earth beat that was irrespirable to dance on tune and on the beat. The inventor of the Siko pedal was the brother of Ali Dubious of Five Star Band.
THE RHYTHMS OF WASSULUNG KUNDA
The Ambiance Jazz band was the first professional music band in Bakau. The band was composed of Ahmed fofana, a Guinean, lead guitarist and singer, Kebba Serge on Congas , Omar Kebba Jammeh Maracass and percussion, Buba Jammeh rhythm guitar and vocals, Lang Tia (Tex) on on Maracass and backing vocals and Edu on Contra Bass (Upright Bass).The Band was managed by Abdoulaye Njie of Bakau Njie Kunda and the Katchically Club members like Ebel Thomas, Madiba Jammeh, Momodou Banjara, Kala Jatta (L.Y.J), Madiba Jammeh, Late Kemo Ring Dampha, and others. Those were in the early 60s. They used to practice in Bakau Njie Kunda-Ring. When Ahmed Fofana decided to return to his country of Guinea with his wife Serra Nding Kuyateh, the band folded
THE BAKAU BEAT
Bakau is the Rhythm capital of the Gambia. In Bakau Ifangbondi formed many tunes based on Bakau life style, the family songs, the endless cultural ceremony songs but above that Wollof Beat called the Surwo-Gadjo.Drummer Samson Gassama was another popular musician coming out of Bakau. He stayed at Nyepeto Kunda together with with Sukuta Jammeh and Pa Camara. This place was a musical meeting point. Musicians came from all over the world to visit Samson. This was a music reference point just like a school. If you want to know or hear anything about music it was at Nyepeto or a Kelebess Kunda where Senemie and some members of Ifangbondi Band lived at old Cape Road. Samson started his musical career with the
SANKUNG JOBARTEH
The legendary Gambian guitarist Sankung Jobarteh is of of the great exponents of the Guitar in the Gambia and in the region. He played for Singing Star Musa Ngum , Chiek Lo of Senegal ,IfangBondi Band, Soto Koto Band and Sona Jobarteh and the only guitar player to make everyone always to wonder. If he had only played with Sofa Nyama his name will still have a place in the history of Africa's great guitar legends.

Born in Kambujay (Brikama area council). Sankung certainly learned what the African Griot and traditional music were all about early in life; spending much of his childhood working as a musician.
Sankung, started his musical lessons with his Father the legendary Kora Grandmaster Amadou Bansang Jobarteh at an early playing about with the instrument of the family the Kora. The Jobarteh family have played the Kora instrument for generations and his grand sons and daughters are playing the Kora including the UK Gambian based World Music Award winner Sona Jobarteh
Sankung had began to make his mark as a guitar player, performing numerous concerts for several small Bands. Most of the bands Sankung performed with during this early period in his career, where armature bands, but he leaned more towards the more popular "Afro Manding Rhtyhm rhythm of music. It wasn't until well into the 1980's that Sankung really became noted for his guitar work. His trademark Gibson guitar of the Afro Manding guitarist has always intrigued many about Sankung's, use of space in his guitar solos. He never feels a need to pack his music with flaire - rather, he concentrates on playing a new creative notes, and enhances them with different colours to create an approach that in many ways approximates the Mandingo Rhythm. He based his guitar style on the Kora and Manding influences , blues and Jazz and became an influential guitarist. Sankung incorporated many different stylistic elements into his music during his long career. His legacy was stamped long ago on his brilliance as a virtuoso soloist, and he will long be remembered as one of the most important and influential guitarists ever, also noteworthy for introducing a mind-blowing guitar Manding melodies
SOFA NYAMA BAND
Sofa Nyama takes its source from Great musician and musicologist Jali Nyama Susso, the Kora Griot renown worldwide from Bakau Wasulung Kunda, like the River Gambia takes its source from the Futa Djallon Highlands in Guinea. Referred to as a fantastic mix of Intoxicating guitar solos from Sankung , boss on bass, heavy drums, burning percussion and the soulful vocals. Sofa Nyama is a Gambian band and first came to widespread public attention when their performance at the Tropical provided a contrast to other acts on the bill. This exposure helped propel their first live concert in Bakau Katchically cinema, also Sedal Sahol Night Club, followed in the next years by the successful concerts openings for major bands like Ifang bondi Band the Gelewar band. Sankung's increasing involvement with Ifangbondi Band took the band into more dynamic Afro Manding regional music, though never quite losing its initial Bakau influence. when Sankung comes to his ability to hear exactly what he wants the band especially the percussion players know when he feels the need to hear more or less rhythm from them. The rhythmic sense of the band was incredibly mature, the drumming, and the grooves are consistently in the place.
Band Members: Dou Camara (Do Serra Manneh/ African village hotel) Band leader and lead vocals, Famara Jammeh-Felix on Bass, Abdou Janneh on Drums, Sankung Jobarteh Lead Guitar and vocals, Manjako Bajang Congas, Musa Beyai on Rhythm Guitar, Musa Secka Sabarr Drums and percussion, Brikama alais Kanye-leng Manso, (Bri Kay) Ceesay ( Vocals), the present Police band Flutist & Piccollo flute Buba Touray as well as secessionist Sam Jarju (Sweden). Sofa Nyama blended traditional Afro-Afro Manding rhythms into today's popular music . On sundays bandstand competition in Banjul they had some con-currencies youth bands to give a test of skills, from Serekunda the "Balfon band" lead by the super powered musician Ousman Beyai, the Genius (Now in UK), and another Sere Kunda band called "Sayer Na Mbao" lead by Kendo (Now Momodou Lamin) as lead singer. But Sankung's Sofa Nyama Band was much more composed and became the first professional youth band to be allowed to used Ifangbondi instruments and entertain the public during intervals in concerts Sankung Jobarteh Guitarist of Sofa Nyama Band as a youth lived under this shadow. At the height of their fame Sankung left the band for Oslo in Norway to further his professional as a guitar player. But he re-introduced the name of the band and the sound in Oslo forming the Sofa Nyama Band and a sessions for many European, Jamaican, American bands while living in Oslo.
CREOLE RYTHMS MEET MANDINGO BEAT
This is the combination known as the Bakau beat. This can be clearly heard when you watch a Bakau football match and hear the Gesseh or Hunting drummers. They play a combination of Mandingo Siko and Barawula beats blended with Asiko rhythms. Bakau Newtown had Gesseh Percussion Group (Close to Newtown Cinema) at the house of the King Family. Mr King of Bakau New town the father of Kojo King and Pa Yaya had a group in the late 1970s/80s, the Rebondo national, they too played in Banjul each Sunday at the armature Nights called Hewareh. Pa Yaya, Ebou Nyass and Kojo were the Bed rock of Rebondo. Out of Rebondo came the Roots Manding Band which later retreated to Sweden and based in Gothenburg. There are a few members playing music still and one of them Dembo Koseke is a successful Reggae singer with his band and won cultural awards in Sweden. The percussionist Po Jatta and the Great Zinzani Papa Jammeh (Papa.J) and who are the keepers of Gambia's roots in Bakau due to countless sacrifices they rendered to the Gambian and Africa community in Scandinavia. Bakau Newtown is the home of the great young Rhythm Band the Holy Family Band.
THE GAMBIA POLICE BAND
The Gambia Police force was the academy of music for young Gambians who wanted tompersue a career in music. There were no singing lessons but the in but intstrument learing of the trumpet, Saxophone, flute, . Here many Gambian musicians started including, Pap Touray, Albert Ali Harb, Samson, Pa Njie Bass, Buba Jammeh, Modou Nie Guitarist/ Bassist Police. Many Gambian want to be musicians joined the Police force just to study music and later join a music band. The music scene was flourishing then, there were night clubs everywhere and Cinama halls for live concerts. In Bakau there were two concert venues, the Katchically Cinema and the Newtown Cinema.
MUSIC CONDUCTOR
Inspector Mbye Jobe
A Veteran conductor, composer and musician, Mbaye is a genius. Mbaye has honours in music and a musicologist honours that many composers cannot that boast of. Popularity is one thing and class is another level. Mbaye have changed the landscape of Gambians music on a music score sheets.
Inspector Mbaye Jobe took over the Conductor of the Gambia Police band baton from Band Master Nichol. He is the Alpha in the history of the Gambia Police marching band . During the cultural transition from colonial marching tunes of Sandhurst Royal Military marching bands to Windsor castle and Buckingham palace were to be replaced by Gambia authentic cultural marching songs mostly composed and arranged by Mbaye jobe. Songs like "Massanneh Ceesay" , "Dolil Benye-yum-pange", "Beayal Sof Se", and the National anthem . Mbaye Jobe performed true musicianship in making numerous fresh, new era arrangements to thsee traditions of 400 years old into a youth force pulse moving the nation to a new vibrant energy propelling the Gambia into a new nation marching to face the with future gloriously. Mbaye Jobe also composed Muslim religious songs like "Min ma hatabit Bayti lag daar" and historical song and cultural songs such as "Mama Tamba" for the matching for marching bands for serene struts and in slow precession diagram marching.
The Pride of Bakau
Bubacar Jammeh alais Buba Jammeh from the Compound of the imam of Bakau. His father is the Imam of Bakau, making Buba a very pious person, spiritual, kind and very sincere. This man played many top festivals all over Europe. Buba is the composer and singer of the famous song: "Baba La Kulung Ba" He has also performed at The African Music Festival in Amsterdam at the famous concert hall THE PARADISO t together with many great stars of African the series including likes of salif Keita, Mory Kanteh and Youssou Ndou and Jaliba Kuyateh. Buba Jammeh is a true musician. He has recorded several albums while working as a musician in Berlin, Germany. This is the third African Music Capital in Europe from France and London. He lived and work in Berlin, Germany.
THE FIVE STAR BAND
A group led by multi talented musician and lead vocalist of the band the Righteous Al Duboise. Ali is a composer and song writer and bandleader of the Five Star Band. the group is compacted with regular practice skills and routine concert and hotel engagement performance practice that there is no night that pass by when you will not hear the voice of Ali fill the Bakau Skies with Bara Wula beats and rhythms of the well pronounced Bakau Afro Manding sound. Ali is from Bakau Madiba Kunda, opposite the house of the famous musician Buba Jammeh. There are other young bands in Bakau and only time will tell when Bakau will stage their first Music festival and make Bakau music both cultural and modern music a revenue event annually.
SOUNDS OF KATCHICALLY
The Late Omar "Youtti" Joof of Bakau New town and mentored many of the many young musicians crafted the Band music groups from the sounds of the 60s and tye 70s Banjul mixed with the Ambience Jazz Band sounds, to come up with a unique band sound from Bakau new town bringing closer the traditions of old Bakau and the sound of the new settlers of Bakau and the extension of Bakau-Kunku as a new frontier in addition to what they already had. The Kora, the Siko, the Police Band, Ambience Band and now Caribbean and West Coast of Africa rhythms of Hunting Dance and Gesseh Dance.This is the combination known as the Bakau beat. This can be clearly heard when you watch a Bakau football match and hear the Gesseh or Hunting drummers. They play a combination of Mandingo Siko and Barawula beats blended with Asiko rhythms. Bakau Newtown had Gesseh Percussion Group (Close to Newtown Cinema) at the house of the King Family. Mr King of Bakau New town the father of Kojo King and Pa Yaya had a group in the late 1970s/80s, the Rebondo national, they too played in banjul each Sunday at the armature Nights called Hewareh. Pa Yaya, Ebou Nyass and Kojo were the Bed rock of Rebondo. Out of Rebondo came the Roots Manding Band which later retreated to Sweden and based in Gothenburg. There are a few members playing music still and one of them Dembo Koseke is a successful Reggae singer with his band and won cultural awards in Sweden. The percussionist Po Jatta and the Great Zinzani Papa Jammeh (Papa.J) and who are the keepers of Gambia's roots in Bakau due to countless sacrifices they rendered to the Gambian and Africa community in Scandinavia. Bakau Newtown is the home of the great young Rhythm Band the Holy Family Band. There are many young bands and musicians in coming up in Bakau for Example the late Rap Guru the M.J lived in Bakau, Jallow Kunda, Born Africans, Pepper House Crew and the dynamic supreme Singer and percussionist Dodou Ndow, the Police Band, Holy Family, Jalex, Manding Morry, 5 Star Band, Army Band and Keyboardist Pa Suso from Suso Kunda in Wassalung Kunda (Opposite Sambou's Bar and restaurant) the premier spot for week end live bands.
Quote: The Civilizing power of music as described charmed the beast, perverted the soul from all manner of injury, and even softened the heart of the god of the dead. To live without music is to die without peace but to be enriched by its gentle persuasions to find god and beauty everywhere Only the heart that knows the beautiful , and the hand that serve god and the mind that has contemplated the nature of the One supreme cause can be united to the advancement of the human estate.
Sounds of the Golden Coast of The Gambia!
The Music from Bakau.
Author: Oko Drammeh

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