By Arret Jatta
In a male-dominated music industry, female artists find it difficult to attain the same level of success as their male counterparts. Unlike, ST, Jizzle and Attack, female artists struggle to sell out shows and don’t make large streams online and even travel to perform internationally.
Despite the challenges of reaching the same international stardom a crop of impressively consistent female artists are trying to break the trend led by Sonna Jobarteh, Cess Ngum, Awa Gambia, Miss Jobiz, and others. Are these female artists getting the recognition they deserve?
The fact is, with all the disadvantages female artists face as opposed to their male counterparts, some are breaking barriers. Take a look at Awa Gambia who returned back home from the “Sen Petit Galle” show in Senegal which propels rising talented kids. After her return some years back she has now finally taken the Gambian music industry by storm.
Her consistency is now paying dividends after her successful album launch in 2022 when she amassed arguably the biggest crowd of any Gambian female artist. Her rising success saw her win five Awards in the “Wah Sa Halat” music award 2023 including the Artists of the Year. Miss “Awa Gambia” Jonga’s success is certainly a bright sign of an upward turn for Gambian female artists.
Putting everything in perspective, consider the career of Sophia Byass, the self-styled Dancehall Diva a female artist with over five years’ experience in the Music Industry. Unfortunately, her 2023 “Explosive” show at QCity did not go as planned as the lights were turned off before she could perform. Sending the few fans, she gathered at the QCity grounds packing home early.
In an exclusive interview with Cess Ngum, a Gambian female artist with over ten years of experience in the music industry, she confided in our reporter on the struggle female artists face. However, she believes “things are changing, you can see that now as we are about to go on [an] international tour”.
The self-styled Gambian Afro Mbalax Queen believes female artists are getting 30 per cent of the support and they need more. She also believes that one of the things that need to be put in place to help female artists is a music school which can help with the foundation of music in the country.
According to Cess, she was motivated to keep going all these years despite the struggles she still maintained her passion for music. “Music makes me live,” she told the reporter.
Another notable Gambian female multi-instrumentalist, Mandinka singer and composer is Sona Jobarteh who resides in the United Kingdom. She is from one of the five principal kora-playing griot families of West Africa and is the first female professional kora player to come from a griot family. The self-acclaimed Kora Virtuoso is wildly recognized in the diaspora where she hosts most of her shows abroad.
Miss Jobarteh uses her music to promote The Gambia with her famous single titled “The Gambia” raking in 26 million streams on YouTube, making her the first Gambian female singer to reach such heights on YouTube.
D Jobs, a prominent music consultant who has served as a manager for a couple of female artists said: “At some point, we have to drag reference to the previous and the present. What we had seen in the previous is an industry of struggle, bustle, and hurdles for our female artists but recently, [more] regard has been given especially with the Gambia Norway association coming to bring this package for our female artists is very commendable.
The package Promoter D Jobs mentioned is an all-expense paid trip to perform at the 37th Anniversary of the Gambian Cultural Week in Oslo. Artists to embark on the trip include Miss Jobiz who is managed by D Jobs, Cess Ngum and Awa Gambia.
D Jobs believes that female artists need to have radical managers. “If you look at the nature of creation, women are reserved, women have that respect. — their nature is to be shy, there are things we can do that they cannot do but if they have a radical manager, radical in the sense that he will be able to pronounce on your behalf regarding what you need.”
He urged the promoters, the producers, the managers, and the music enthusiasts to support female artists. “Female artists need to be so much aggressive and oppressive around their male counterparts not that they want to be rebellious no, but to tell them what men can do they can do it as well,” he said.