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GAMBIA-L  May 2000

GAMBIA-L May 2000

Subject:

Re: KAIRO: Sounds of The Gambia - reply to Katim

From:

Momodou Camara <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The Gambia and related-issues mailing list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 22 May 2000 09:24:39 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (136 lines)

Greetings Gambia-l,
The following mail is a reply to Katim from the Manager of Ifang
Bondi in Holland. She reads the Gambia-l postings through the web
interface and requested that I forward this mail for her to the L.


------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:              Mon, 22 May 2000 06:42:15 +0200
From:                   Ifang Bondi <[log in to unmask]>
Send reply to:          [log in to unmask]
Organization:           Ifang Bondi
To:                     [log in to unmask]
Subject:                Re: KAIRO: Sounds of The Gambia

Reply to Mr. Karim Touray,

 As a music lover you won't allow politics to affect your listening
pleasure.
However, especially in Africa music has always been a powerful vehicle
for conveying messages. Hence politicians, fully aware of the impact
music has on the public, don't fail to recruit musicians in order to
promote their views and increase their influence.
Therefore, with due respect to anyone's genuine love for a certain
music, it's seems rather naive to simply ignore the possible political
motivations wrapped up in the music one is eager to promote.

In many but not exclusively African countries a successful career as an
artist - including performance opportunities, media exposure etc. -
often depends on the artist's willingness to be quite vocal in his/her
endorsement of the prevailing regime, rather than on his/her artistic
qualities.
The artist inevitably becomes entangled in the political agenda by
performing at political rallies and official occasions, fund raising
activities, collaborating on cultural projects enhancing the regime's
image, getting sponsored to represent the nation at international
cultural events etc.
The lyrics of popular songs extolling the virtues of parties in power
and artists' statements in e.g. interviews and shows on state-owned
radio & televion stations reveal how in many countries music does get
used for political purposes.

By the same token artists displaying a more independent and
uncompromising attitude are not really appreciated  - even less so when
they happen to be very popular figures - and consequently have their
music banned (the archives of state radio stations often harbour an
interesting collection of 'banned' songs), sometimes are even forced to
pack up and try their luck elsewhere. A famous example has been provided
by the late Fela Kuti but there are many more musicians - together with
writers and  playwrights for that matter - that continue to suffer the
same fate or even worse, in Africa as well as elsewhere in the world.

This explains the often conspicious absence of a country's most
outstanding artists from the local airwaves and public stages. The
following quote from a letter by Badou Jobe published in the Observer of
February 1, 1996, illustrates such a situation:
"When a delegation of the former regime put me and my fellow musicians
of Ifang Bondi to the choice of either changing our critical attitude or
being denied further facilities/opportunities to perform in The Gambia,
I chose the latter option, making it clear that I am not in the business
of praise singing and never will be". The rest is history.

There 's another arena were music and politics meet.
Music authors - composers and textwriters - get their income from the
copyright monies levied on public performance (radio/television, live
performances) and mechanical registration  (CDs, mcs etc.) of their
works.
It's of great importance that their country provides a legal framework,
by implementing copyright laws, to protect works of music and ensure the
collection of copyright monies through a copyright organization which on
behalf of the affiliated authors controls and administrates the monies
due to them.
Obviously countries with state-owned public media and/or a thriving
music copy industry (often controlled by a politically influential
business sector) will not be particularly eager to implement copyright
laws and subsequently be forced to turn over considerable amounts of
money to music authors.

 In 1998  Badou Jobe submitted a petition to all members the National
Assembly as well as the SoS of Tourism (who doubles as the SoS for
Culture) urgently asking for legislation of copyright laws -besides
suggesting other viable measures to improve the cultural sector.
The petition was also published in all newspapers. Culture has never
been a very pressing political issue in The Gambia, so it hardly comes
as a surprise that no-one of the addressees returned even an
acknowledgement  of receipt of his petition. Uptil now copyright laws
are non-existing in The Gambia, depriving music authors of an income,
besides making piracy a perfectly legal activity.

This puts also the position of the authors whose compositions feature on
the 'Kairo' album released by Arch Records ( GRTS) into perspective: no
matter how many copies will be sold in The Gambia and how much airplay
their music will get, they won't get any butut for it. (NB copyright
monies are not to be confused with royalties which is the payment
performers receive for their participation in a recording session.)

Interesting question is - now that the 'Kairo' album is also marketed in
countries that do have copyright legislation - who eventually is going
to pocket the copyright monies to be recieved from sales and airplay
abroad. Taking into consideration that the authors themselves haven't
been able to legally register themselves as the rightful owners of the
compositions, which would entitle them to claim the monies.

The music scene in The Gambia, and the cultural sector as a whole for
that matter, is still very much underdeveloped. The Arch Records' boast
that "for the first time in this nation's history all musicians will
recieve royalties" only reflects the sad situation.
In the same time this rather self-righteous statement suggests that,
until the Arch Records' own appearance on the scene, basically only
unscrupulous music professionals - denying musicians a fair treatment -
have been around in The Gambia.
Speaking for ourselves as a independent record producer - for many more
years than most other Gambian producers - we have always complied with
international standards as to royalties and copyrights, besides paying
our musicians good salaries. Our efforts to maintain a high level of
professional integrity and provide creative opportunities for each
individual member of Ifang Bondi have proved very rewarding to all of
us.
Hopefully it will inspire other Gambian music professionals to try to
achieve the same.

Thanks for coming along on this boring trip through the music jungle.
Keep on supporting Gambian musicians!

Irene



------- End of forwarded message -------

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