Oussou Njie: Government Is Responsible For the Slow Growth of Gambian Music
Retired Gambian music legend and former band member of The Super Eagles, Ismaila Oussou Njie, blames the Gambian government for the setbacks in the Gambian music industry.
In an exclusive interview with The Chronicle, Isamila Oussou Njie cited a lack of investment and support from the government as being one of the main problems in terms of growth in the industry over the years.
“Gambian music has nothing. No matter how powerful one is, if the elders of the house do not support you, then your power is useless. The government has not given all the support needed in the arts starting from the Jawara administration to the present government.”
“They abandoned all community centers and invested in their personal gain. They did nothing to support the art industry, and music in particular. Community centers are very important and they should be vibrant. It’s a disgrace that Alliance Franco had to be opened by a foreign body and create an environment for all arts players and lovers to meet.”
Highlighting another hindrance in the growth of Gambian music, Njie mentioned that most of the songs produced in the current music scene are not ready for the international market, pointing out a lack of standard in the entire production process.
“The present Gambian music is not up to standard. Music is not a game and the music most Gambians are doing is not good enough. Before you know it, take it to the international market and see. Sometimes these young artists will tell me their songs are being played on international platforms, but what I tell them is they will play it there because you are not registered for copyright not because your music is good. In fact, there are some songs that are being played on Gambian radio that they shouldn’t play. Despite all of that, there are few with talent that can go far.”
According to the retired music legend, Gambian artists are still dreaming of a day when they can enjoy the fruits of intellectual property rights. He disclosed that up to this very day, he has not been paid any intellectual property rights for his artistic work despite it now being a law approved by parliament. Njie makes the argument that there is a need for the government to put support in the industry, and for artists to invest more time in learning and honing their craft.
However, efforts were made to reach the minister responsible for arts and culture in the country, but to no avail.
Know Your Legend, Ismaila Oussou Njie
Ismaila Oussou Njie was born in May 1945 in Banjul, The Gambia. Surrounded by music and entertainment, Oussou Njie discovered his love for music at an early age while still attending school. Despite the refusal of his mother for him to pursue music, Oussou’s love for music grew and his undeniable talent created attention leaving his mother with no choice, but to give him her blessing.
In 1964, at the age of 19, Oussou chose music over his studies as he joined the newly formed Eagles band on a tour in Sierra Leone. He was the youngest member of the band which consisted of the crème de la crème of Gambian talent like Badou Jobe, Pap Touray, and Modou Cham among others.
They became the first Gambian musical act to travel outside The Gambia for the purpose of music. After their return, they became popular in the country and performed at all major events. As with all bands, some members left the group while others remained and these developments led to his decision to go independent. Being an independent act was not easy at that time, the band strived hard with the goal of starting their own band independently with the support of a diamond business dealer.
This led to the formation of the Super Eagles Band. Super Eagles became very popular amongst Gambians and in neighboring Senegal, as they toured the Senegambia region and beyond.
Between 1968 and 1971, the Super Eagles wrote their names in history books in the Republics of Ghana, Togo, other parts of West Africa, as well as the United Kingdom.