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Profile of The Root Bongo Band

Mar 16, 2012, 2:10 PM

The Gambian popular music began in the 1960s, when the sounds from the Smiling Coast of Africa first made it way to the international music scene.

 Since then music bands have emerged and doing big in their own ways with much emphasis of promoting The Gambia’s cultural heritage.

It is against this backdrop that the Roots Bongo Band, a rising Gambian reggae band, came into existence to boost the scene in a grand style.

Following its rising success, the band is even more committed to make its way and make name in the global music scene. Being among few reggae bands in The Gambia growing bigger and bigger by the day, they also play live music.

This is even demonstrated in their debut album, which was exclusively recorded during a live show and nothing is computer-generated. Besides, they have a German female lead singer who joined the band in 2009, and they play mix African vibes with reggae music. Initially formed as an acoustic set, the band now focuses on other music genres like roots reggae as well as dancehall.

Emerging at a time when much of the younger generation are fully in love of foreign music, but there are existing music bands that still promote Gambian music.

As the popular saying goes: “A people without culture is like a tree without roots”.  Reformed in 2011, the band, which first came into being in 2002 was formed by stars like Joe Hero and Ismaila Colley (alias Afang Makaangba), and that same year started playing in hotels and local restaurants in The Gambia.

Starting as an acoustic four-member band, the band has now proven to be a fully established band gracing stage in a number of international events.

In contrast, the devastating performance of highlife, soul, Cuban music, reggae and Western pop songs which followed, faultlessly delivered by the men in sharp suits, revealed why this band from The Gambia had all it takes to become one of West Africa’s numerous -onu. It’s a matter of fact , though unknown to their thousands of fans, this was not the end of the story, but just the end of the first chapter in one of the longest-running sagas in The Gambia’s musical history.

The pioneers of the band later thought it is time to promote The Gambia’s local made beats thus came with the brilliant idea to establish a band that will promote The Gambia’s culture and other local music.

Currently with 6 members, the band is also on the verge of securing a keyboard player.

Strictly playing reggae music, roots reggae to dancehall and pop reggae, the Roots Bongo Band is also recording some African acoustic songs.

With global music influence and the introduction of new instruments to adapt to changing music genres, the band members all love reggae music, but want to stay true to their roots.

Promoting African vibes, especially Gambian music, is not a question as the band hailed from The Gambia. Currently, with one album in a row entitled ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’, the Roots Bongo Band is also planning for mega projects in the coming years.

It is interesting to note that during the band’s debut album launching held in 2012 at Jakarlo, over 300 fans as well as scores of Gambian artistes graced the occasion.

However, the launching proper was preceded by interviews on local FM radios as well as a press conference with journalists. Promoting The Gambia as a country capable of producing great music is one of the goals the band wants to showcase to the outside world.

Watch out for more compilation projects planned for 2012 and the coming years.

Entertainment was also informed that come April 2012, the band will embark on a countrywide tour as part of promoting its activities and music.