The recent visit to the presidency by some Gambian artists has created controversy among artists, fans and music stakeholders, especially on social media. According to a press release by The State House of The Gambia, a group of Gambian artists presented a “peace project” to President Adama Barrow when they met with him at State House.
The “peace project”, according to the release, is a concept that various Gambian artists came up with in the spirit of nationalism and to promote peace and unity through music.
However, controversy surrounds the “peace project” since the press release on the meeting with the president. Rapper and interim president of the Gambia Music Union, Gibou Bala Gaye, commonly known as “Gee”, was among the first to write about it on his Facebook page.
“We will not be praise singers for any president or political party or politicize our music industry,” he wrote.
He went further to write: “We don’t need mediators, there is a Music Union for anything, the government, organizations or even companies when dealing with Gambian artists as a whole”.
In a press release also issued by the Gambia Musicians Union, the union made mention that the “peace project initiative” was facilitated by the Barrow Youth Movement for National Development in collaboration with Lamin Cham (DJ Champion Sounds).
The Union wrote that they are not against the “peace project”, but rather against “the siding/working/affiliating with any political group, parties or politically related gatherings in the name of Gambian artists or musicians”.
They wrote that due to the present situation of the country, “the timing of the meeting and the body facilitating it, the meeting did not sit well with a lot of artists and the executives of the Music Union”. They believe there are right channels such as the Ministry of Youths and Sports or the Ministry of Tourism and Arts/Culture, to facilitate such projects together with the Music Union and National Center for Arts and Culture.
The Chronicle was able to talk to Lamin Cham of Champion Sounds and he believes that those artists who visited the president represented themselves not the Gambia Music Union.
“I believe the artists that went to visit the president didn’t go there on behalf of any union; nobody represented the union. They represented themselves individually and if more than 12 Gambian artists went somewhere, you are going to call them Gambian artists not street artists, the music union is a choice, you can join it or leave it, “ Cham told The Chronicle.
In response to the Music Union’s press release, Dembo Jorbateh, coordinator for the “peace project” and also a staff of the Barrow Youth Movement for National Development, told The Chronicle that the music union is not a music business consultancy that needs to be contacted when artists are to be given contracts.
“The Gambia Music Union is not a music business consultancy firm neither a record label nor a booking agency so the government may not need to contact them directly, whoever the government wants to contract, they will contract them without the music union. Most of the Gambian artists do not understand the difference between music and the music business, the Gambia Music Union does only music, it’s a collection of musicians and it’s not a force to be in the music union. There are so many artists who are not in the music union.”
He further shared with The Chronicle how the involvement of these artists came about. He explained that this idea was not something from the presidency but rather an idea from him.
“This project is not from the presidency, it’s an individual idea. In my capacity as a music promoter for over a decade, I realize my role in Barrow Youth Movement for National Development can have a bigger impact. So, I thought of using people in the spotlight (musicians) to talk about the essence of peace and that’s how the involvement of The Gambian artists came about. When I was given the green light to go ahead, I thought of involving a music business consultant and that’s when Lamin Cham ( DJ Champion Sound) came in.”
Jobarteh went on to say an artist does not need to be part of the Music Union to be called a Gambian artist. That as far as one is a Gambian doing music, you are called a Gambian artist. He concluded by saying if the government needs to contact anybody, it should be the Gambia association of promoters and producers not the Music Union.
Ya Ida is a music fan and she believes that if an artist wants to be part of any political movement and be involved in politics, it’s his/her choice and democracy has given them that right. “But I think they should go through the Gambia Music Union. On the other hand, it’s also a good thing that the artists went there, at least the government might start investing in the music industry.”