Exclusive chat with the Briks-tone fiesta founder, Marshall Tellisman

Written by Alieu Khan

As you probably already know, the Briks-tone fiesta is the biggest annual music festival in Brikama, Western Region. It was set up to bring people together, promote Gambian music, revive some of our old traditions and the most important to raise money for the Brikama Health Centre. 

The founder of the festival is Sulayman Sanyang, aka Marshall Tellisman. He’s a passionate event organizer and music promoter. Born in Brikama, he started Briks-tone fiesta with the support of few friends and his personal savings. The festival has now expanded to be one of the major festivals in the country. Last year, the main act was Tenza (the Boss Lady), a Jamaican reggae singer based in the UK. 

What’s On-Gambia was keen to chat with Marshall to find out more about the festival and what he is planning for next year; 

What’s On-Gambia: Would you mind to tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved in music? 

Marshall:  I’m born and raised in Brikama and currently live in Glasgow, Scotland. My involvement in music started at a very tender age. Safari nightclub, which was one of the most popular nightclubs in the country, was located in our compound. So I grew up listening to the sounds they used to play. It was more reggae then. 

You were part of a rap in Brikama (laughs). What happened to the group? 

(Laughs) Yes, I was in a boy group called the Native Crew, but unfortunately due to our commitment at school and lack of financial support we decide to break up. 

Can you tell us how the Briks-tone fiesta came about? 

Briks-tone fiesta came out of love, love for my people, love for my country, love for Gambian music and culture and the most important my late father told me: “Always try to do something for the improvement of your community.” 

What makes the festival different from other festivals? 

It’s a festival for every one - bringing all ages together to have fun and also to raise money for the Brikama Health Centre. 

You live in Scotland and the rest of the team is in The Gambia. How do you coordinate things? 

Is all about cooperation and understanding each other. I want to use this opportunity to salute my National Coordinator and the members of the Badinyaa Foundation. 

What do you enjoy most about organizing Briks-tone fiesta? 

What’s better than uplifting and reviving our culture and seeing people come together having fun with a noble cause attached to it? 

Last year, your organizing team decided to ban reggae singer, Benjamin from performing at the Festival. What went wrong? 

No, he wasn't ban!  Briks-tone fiesta belongs to every Gambia. Benjamin was unavailable when we started to finalize with the artists to perform. 

What advice would you give anyone who is thinking of organizing a festival? 

Well, it needs a lot of dedication and hard work and also love for what you intend to do. I’m always ready to help. We need more festivals in The Gambia, since it’s a popular tourist destination and more, and more young people are entering the music scene. 

What artists are you hoping to book for next year? 

We’re working on it. The plan is to make Briks-tone fiesta 2014 the biggest event ever in Brikama. We want to have both international and local artists. So we are pushing a little bit harder. 

Now let’s talk about Gambian music. What do you think of the performance of the music industry? 

Gambian music has come a long way and I think it is doing good and upgrading day by day. 

As a promoter in what areas do you think our artists need help? 

The industry needs big time help by protecting and supporting our artists and their products. The artists should start receiving loyalties. Let them be paid for their service.  Also, the artists need to unite and stop making too much noise. 

Thank you for the interview and best of luck with the festival, next year. 

You welcome anytime!