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African Music Promoter Discloses His Experiences

Feb 20, 2009, 7:49 AM | Article By: Yerro Mballow

Oko Drammeh, a well-known Gambian music promoter and event organiser, grew up in The Gambia as a Disc Jockey for radio stations, nightclubs and social event.

The Banjul-born music promoter travelled far and wide in Europe, Africa and America and has vast experience in music. He is a producer, ethnomusicologist and founder and chairman of the African music festival, one of the most oldest and largest international African events 29 years ago. He also produced several CDs in the Sotokoto Band, catalogue for higher octave music which now are distributed by virgin.

He founded the African music festival in Delft Holland in 1983 as a taste of home for Africans living in Europe. The event quickly became popular with the Dutch people and soon become a major tourist draw every summer and the United States. Oko Drammeh has been a major force in presenting a great variety of Africans singers, composers and instrumentalists from the traditional to the contemporary as well as the obscure.

In an interview with this reporter recently at the Department of Arts and Culture in Banjul the noted musician said that in 2003 the African music festival opened offices in China and Japan to share the great diversity of African music and culture with Asian audience.

Oko Drammeh revealed that he had also produced documentaries on African music and culture for BBC, written articles for Down Beat Magazine and organised a host of festivals, concerts, symposiums, and other cultural exhibitions.

He also revealed that he was the creative force behind the Sotokoto Band.

Oko Drammeh, a household name in African music, said he introduced stars like the Late Miriam Makeba of South Africa, Youssou Ndour and Touray Kunda of Senegal, Mory Kante of Guinea Conakry and Salifu Keita of Mali to the attention of the international listening public.

According to him, he was also instrumental in introducing the music of Angelique KidJo of Benin, Randy Weston of USA, Manu Dibango of Cameron, Osibisa of Ghana, among other artists to European audience. Drammeh said he'd also staged events in France, Germany, England and Scandinavia.

In 2001, Oko Drammeh brought the 'Night of the Griots' on a US tour that exposed the cultural music and instruments of the Manding people to American audience as a first cultural step of exchange between The Gambia and Austin, Taxas. The experienced Gambian music promoter recorded for Sotokoto Band, Rebecca Atanga, Jaliba Kuyateh and the Afro Beat Gang.