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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

Oussou Njie Senor celebrates 50 years of music today.

A veteran Gambian musician Oussou Njie Senor of the former Super Eagles Band is set to celebrate his 50 years in music at a gala dinner on Saturday at the Pencha Mi Hall Paradise Suites Hotel.

The icon, widely called Uncle Oussou, is no doubt amongst the trailblazers of The Gambia’s music scene back in the days and is still contributing his quota towards the development of the country’s music industry.

The long awaited event slated for today May 3rd 2014 at Pencha Bi Hall at the Paradise Suite Hotel in Kololi, will be backed by his own band called Fatehleku Band. It’s expected to be one of its kind and another historic moment in the country’s music scene. Some of the upcoming coming stars in the Gambia like Bai Babu, Kerr Gi Family, Jali Madi, Manding Morry, T Smallz, GEE, Musa Ngum, Sambou Suso, Benjamin and Partinerr will grace the occasion.

In a recent interview with What’s On ahead of the event, Oussou Njie disclosed that he and his band are ever ready to make the 50 year celebration (his golden jubilee in music) a great success. To make this a reality he is currently rehearsing with his  Band ahead of the event.

He used the interview to   thank Gambians for their continued support and contribution towards his music. “Since I started music in 1964 up to 2014, people are really supporting me, now is my time to say thank you,” he said.

To make the event a great hit, Uncle Oussou will not only celebrate his 50th year of music in the Kombos, but he will be going on a nationwide tour starting on the 7th May 2014 with the Fatehleku Band. “I will be playing on the 3rd of May at Pencha Bi Hall, on the 4th Brikama, on the 7th Bansang in the  Central River Region, Basse URR, Farafenni NBR and finally  Serekunda KMC” he added.

He explained that wherever he plays, he will take  only 25% of the money and that the remaining   75% will be donated to that particular region for the  maintenance  of school toilets in the area. This he said is to show that Gambian music is not only about singing songs, but also to contribute towards the development of the country.

Njie also revealed that he has projects for the upcoming music stars in the country. “I want to organize workshops where I will gather all those who are willing to know more about music,” he explained.

Mustapha Drammeh, a member of the Fatehleku Band and a keyboardist disclosed that Uncle Oussou is really helping them and that they are really preparing for the tour, promising that they will give the people the best of Fatehleku of Uncle Oussou Njie’s songs.

Other speakers included; Barhama of Kerr Gi Family who is also a member of the Fatehleku Band, Silver a guitarist and Dodou Sehareh, amongst others. They called on all Gambians to come out en-mass and support Uncle Oussou Njie.Author: Isatou M. Ceesay
Daily Observer

Oko Drammeh profiles the formidable Laba Sosseh

Laba Badara Sosseh was a Gambian salsa singer and composer. He was the undisputed master of African Salsa Music and the inventor of Salsa Mbalax, Super Star band, Star band and Africando.

To many, Laba Sosseh was a great singer but overall he was the root of the modern day All-Senegalese music, Mali Pachanga music, the Ivoirian music, Congolese Salsa music, Guinea and African Sals in general. He is a cousin to the legend Paps Touray, and hewas responsible in introduceing Paps Touray (Ex-Super Eagles and Ifangbondi Singer & Composer) to the music scene which became the cradle of Gambian music. The rest was African Jazz, Super Eagles and Ifangbondi.

Laba came from Anglesea Street and Dobson. His grandfather was Mam Tafshir Demba Mbye, the father of Alhagi Makiyu Mbye father of the famous drumming twins Sheikh Mbye. He was a keen drummer, which lead him to become a percussionist at Foyer Band with The Portuguese-Gambian resident band. This was where he started singing backing vocalists, playing Tumba and having few solo shots as lead singer in some popular South American tunes.

A griot, Sosseh was born in Bathurst, British Gambia (now Banjul, The Gambia) on 12 March 1943. His family relocated to Dakar because of his father's work at the airport. This was how Sosseh got involve in Dakar's musical scene, which was at the time strongly tilted towards son, rumba and other Cuban rhythms.

 

As a founding member of Dakar's Star Band, he shared the limelight during the late 1960s with several future members of Orchestra Baobab. He also performed with Issa Cissokho the Senegalese master saxophonist with the Vedette band.

In 1972, Sosseh cast his lot with a splinter group, Super-star de Dakar that was based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. The band went through several incarnations, including the Super International Band de Dakar featuring singer Pape Fall, and Liwanza. After recording with Liwanza for local producer Aboudou Lassissi in 1977, Lassissi managed for Sosseh to visit New York, where he became involved in the fledging salsa scene, and recorded a series of LPs titled "Salsa Africana", with direction from Cuban Sonero Monguito "El Unico".

Sosseh remained connected to the New York salsa scene for thirty years. He recorded repeatedly with Orquesta Aragón in Paris, and his song "Diamoule Ma-wo" was covered by late Joe Arroyo (as "Yamu-lema", with Arroyo singing in Wolof language by means of a phonetics sheet).

In 1998, Sosseh was tapped by famed Afro-salsa band Africando for their album Baloba! Where he sang two tunes: "Ayo Nene" and his signature tune "Aminata". When Senegal and Cuba normalized relations, Sosseh was part of the "Afro-salseros de Senegal" project, together with Pape Fall, James Gadiaga and Issa Cissokho amongst others. On their only record, Sosseh sings "El Manisero" and (again) "Aminata". Sosseh was also featured in several compilations of Afro-Cuban music, including "Putumayo: Congo to Cuba.

Gambian Laba Sosseh was a significant presence in the African and New York salsa scene. Laba Sosseh, who relocated to Dakar, Senegal as a teenager, spent his entire career outside of the Gambia. Laba Sosseh was a Gambian. Although he is frequently categorized as Senegalese, Laba grew up in Banjul (The Gambia) at the junction of Dobson street and Anglesea street in Half Die at the compound of the Muslim Saint Mam Tafsir Demba Mbye, Mbayen where the Mbye Drumers and Griot family commonly known as Sheikh Mbye came from. Laba listen to Cuban music and Johnny Pacheco, who was one of his stars. He was the first Senegambian musician to win an international music award, and for no other reason than his amazing music.

Inspired by the Cuban dance music of the 1940s and'50s, Gambian-born vocalist Laba Sosseh formed the Star Band du Dakar shortly after Senegal declared its independence in 1960. With Sosseh sharing lead vocals with Papa Seck, the group rose to the upper echelon of African music. Although they reached their peak in the late-'70s, Sosseh and the Star Band du Dakar continue to inspire dancing with their energetic fusion of African and Latin influences more than two decades later.

In 1971 Sosseh had his biggest opportunity of becoming a nationally known artist in Senegal. He signed up with record label Gloegroovers records. He performed with the band for ten years until when he began his solo career leading his band, named Superstar.

Laba Sosseh became very successful by mixing salsa, Wollof Mbalax and other music from the African Diaspora in a unique style that has earned him the prefix of El Maestro by critics and fans. Some of his most famous songs are Aminata and Djoh ma Saloho. This is a beautiful release from Gambian Salsero Laba Sosseh.

This intoxicating son-salsa number is typified by rich, crisp grooves provided by the rhythm section. There is, not one unnecessary note on this, almost sparse, tasty project, it is a salsa distillation. Sosseh's seasoned, almost restrained, voice is calling you. This is an invitation to dance music.

African Music suffered a big blow, when death laid its icy hands on a Gambian-born Music star Laba Sosseh. He passed away in Dakar, Senegal, where his music was well known and the African artist was recognized as one of Africa's greatest artists.

Author: Oko Drammeh

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