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“Our music is all about bringing people together,” Exclusive interview with Roots Bongo Band
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“Our music is all about bringing people together,” Exclusive interview with Roots Bongo Band

Roots Bongo Band is undoubtedly the country’s leading multicultural band.  It is led by German-born, Nina and her Gambian husband JoeHero.  What’s On –Gambia had the opportunity to do an exclusive interview with them.  They told us more about their thoughts on the music they produce, relationship with fans and their plans for the future.

What’s On-Gambia: Tell us a little about Roots Bongo Band. How did you originally meet? 

Roots Bongo Band: The band started off as an acoustic set of JoeHero and a few friends, playing for tourists in bars and hotels around The Gambia. In 2009 the band met with Nina, and recorded some songs together. When Nina went back to the UK, JoeHero followed in hopes of coming back with great recording for the band one day. Unfortunately after he left the band kind of fell apart, and even after Nina’s and JoeHero’s return to The Gambia, many musicians had sought after other careers. The band was then restructured and we just recently reunited with our former band member and rapper Melody B. 

For people who might be unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it? 

On our debut album Leaders of Tomorrow you will find mostly what we like to call ‘Roots Pop Reggae’. It is a mixture of Roots Reggae and Pop elements. Recently we have been working on some new material, which will include some dancehall and bashment tracks as well. 

If you were to describe your band in one word what would it be? 



Our music is all about bringing people together, and enjoying life by helping each other. We want all nations and humans to be equal and living together in peace and harmony. It is a tough message to stick to, since we get a lot of comments about NOT being a purely Gambian band, and some try to make it hard for us because of that! But we believe in each other and our fans and the true Rastafari who see beyond the colour of anyone’s skin! 

How has the audience reception been to your debut album? 

They really loved it! We have had feedback from all across the globe, and it has all been positive, what we are truly grateful for. What we need the fans to know is that even if we release new and different material now, we will always give them songs like the ones they fell in love with on the first album. 

Is it true that you are mainly out to provide entertainment to tourists visiting the country? 

No, not at all! We have not played for many tourists so far. We have been on the Kombo Tour of 2013 from February until May this year, during which we played to Gambians mostly. We started in Gunjur, and went all the way to Banjul, even Kafuta and several other towns in the Kombo area. People might get the idea that we play for tourists, because we play live at The Roots Bongo Bar & Restaurant in Kololi every Friday during season. The only reason we don’t play during off-season is the rain! And actually we do even get more Gambians than tourists attending at the venue! 

What’s been the best moment of your band so far? 

One of our fans from Facebook who lives in Sanyang travelled all the way to Kololi to see us live and to meet us. He loves the band so much that he organised a program for us to play live at Sanyang Youths Hall, which was the program we enjoyed most so far! All his friends and other fans attended and really showed us how much they enjoyed the program and love the band and music. It was fantastic! 

How has your style of music changed from when you first started playing? 

We still keep it roots for most of our tracks, but we decided to include some dancehall and bashment to grow a bigger audience. This does not mean that we will completely change our style; we just want to show that we got more surprises on the way! Especially since we reunited with our rapper, it seems to be a good move to venture into new territory. 

Since the release of your album, you guys have seen a spike in your national profile. How does it feel to be the most popular Gambian band on Facebook? 

Wow! We did not even know we were the most popular one! That is amazing! Nina studied music in the UK, so she knows the importance of social media and always keeps the fans informed about what we are up to. It is also very nice to be able to have this close connection to fans nowadays. It gives us the chance to get direct feedback of the most important people, as well as connect to the rest of the world. 

Do you collaborate with other Gambian artists? 

Yes. We just started getting back into the studio to work on new material, and we already spoke to a few Gambian artists about collaborations. One of them might be T-Smallz. 

What is a Roots Bongo Band concert like? 

Great fun!!! Really, we try to keep it very personal. We engage with the fans, sometimes give away free stuff, and always play with a full live band. We put a lot of time and effort into giving people live music, to give them a unique experience. Due to resources a lot of artists in Gambia are forced to sing over pre-recorded beats at their concerts, but at our concerts all you hear is played live then and there. We are now talking to other artist to see how to make it possible to collaborate on events so that everybody gets the chance to sing with a live band. 

What do you have lined up for the coming months? 

A big concert is planned for the second day of Tobaski at Sukuta Cinema Hall, where we will be releasing a few new tracks. We are also working on a single release before that and once the rain calms down a bit we will start playing live every Friday at the Bar & Restaurant again. 

For more information about the band please visit: www.rootsbongo.com or follow the band on Facebook: www.facebook.com/rootsbongoband


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