By Suntou Bolonba Touray
Music is something each individual experiences, to a modern African; the blend of nostalgic sounds with postmodern awakening of electric enhancement of main stream rhymes is new. Young Gambian musicians have borrowed from lands far away to construct a sound system that, the youth generation respond to.
Can we call it postmodern musical adventure? Some analyst states that, postmodernism influence in traditional music means, “Listeners can understand music of various eras”. Music is considered as an art, the art work is valued from the talent and skill, reputation of the artist. Similarly, looking at the Gambian musical scene today, a variety of young local youths have all discover themselves, embraced their language and culture, thus singing songs with foreign rhymes but in local languages.
Where do these new breeds of Gambian musicians come from? Why do they choose music as a career? What influence them to play music? Do they have a targeted audience?
Tricia Ross’s study of Black Music in America exposed certain mindset amongst Rappers. She found that, the Ghetto is use an identity; therefore Ghetto language plays a lot in the vibes emanating from the Rap Music. Rappers she says use words aimed at black hip hop fans, however, should whites and middle class blacks enjoy it, well and good.
The focus of the interview here is to look the music of Jalex aka Akuntu. He plays a reggae bit with traditional songs. He is not alone, there many other young singers now singing in Fula, Wollof and Mandingo but using reggae bits.
Jalex understood that, the youths love it. The old traditional Sabar sound alone cannot satisfy the musical apatite of the youth, both urban and rural. Reggae penetrated the Gambia since the days of Bob Marley. However, what is new is the borrowing of the sound to sing in local languages.
Older generation and the elite class fancy the Jaliba Kuyateh music, because it elevates them and announces their successes in life. What about our brothers and sisters? What music do they like among their friends? Does it matter what they listen to?
For me it matters, because the ‘ears is said to the window to our hearts’ what people hear often tend to influence them. The sad thing for the young talented Gambian musicians is that, they tend to operate individually. Hardly anyone has a business manager. Their income and expenditure is handled by themselves. This contributes to their exit from the music business without them even realizing it.
Malang Touray, aka Jalex, was born in the town of Bakau, the Gambia. The Grandson of a famous singer, Jali Fodah, he has been inspired by music since his early childhood - an inspiration that came from his grandfather's great work as a cultural musician. Jalex has evolved his own, very distinctive style of music, which he titles "Afro-reggae" http://www.youtube.com/user/1gambia
A young new generation of Gambian musician, Jalex aka Akuntu created a good blend of traditional songs and new sound system. I met Jalex at his London base to talk about his style of music and the influence it impact on Gambian youths.
Since music is as good as the artist, it is highly worthwhile to examine the particular musician entertaining our young generations. Jalex came across as a very intelligent and sober talent. He embodied the old and new integrated traditional man. His approach to Gambianess and why Gambians should celebrate their ‘heritage’ is eye catching.
Jalex belongs to the musical family of the Jali-Fodah’s line. During my research, it became evident that, Jalex did not just jump into music like many urban young men; he knew music has deep rooted history in his family.
Jali Fodah is equivalent to Jaliba Kuyateh of today. He traveled all across the Gambia, Senegal and Cassamance. Jal Fodah’s legacy is what, many modern day drummers copy. In Mandingo terms, Jalex’s grandfather is referred to as (Dah Jalo) Male singer. Dah Jalo does not only sing, but he is accompanied by drummers. He must master language and proverbs. Often he wears a costume (dala) in performance.
Jalex is an active individual who practice many trades before settling down for music. His mastery of carpentry brought him in contact with many famous Gambians. His humility and outgoing character played a part in his early success story. He unlike certain young musicians has a deep passion for the art.
Jalex performs for one of Gambia’s GSM service providers every New Year’s Eve. He also plays at hotels, on stage and in private functions. His talent has made him a type that if he is not available in any big event, it’s termed to be incomplete some fans remark.He is always the last performing artist when or where ever there is a Gambian lineup performance simply because of what most organizers have realized, whenever he performs, that’s the end of the show because most of the fans will go immediately.
Jalex Awards and Recognition:
He has won several awarded over his five year music career.
In March 2007 - Winner - The Smiling Coast Riddim Gambia
June 2007 - Winner - Best New Artist - UK Senegambian Awards 2007 (UK)
January 2008 – Nyamato sound track played twice on BBC 1Xtra by DJ Edu UK
February 2008 - Winner "Best Solo Artist" Gam Spirit National Music Awards (Gambia)
February 2008 - Nominated in Male Artist of the Year and Afro-Manding Song of the Year – GT Awards 2008 (USA, UK, Gambia)July 2009 - Ambassador of Bakoteh Annex Lower Basic SchoolMay 2010- Best Gambian Performing Artist of the Kanilai international Festival
Albums or DiscographySoma Alfaa 2007 and Baadiyaa 2009 hits the shops in London and The Gambia
Sambi ibina up coming Album. Jalex is currently in studios recording in preparation of the Sambi Mbina album, the single is out now.