What Do Gambians Do? (Part 2)

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I have noticed that most of our hair-dressing salons and barbershops are now owned by young Gambian entrepreneurs. Some sort of realization must’ve happened for that kind of change to occur because when I was a kid, the neighborhood barber never got paid much (if he got paid at all). I guess we started realizing that it was a possible business venture when Nigerian barbers set up shop all over town and started charging some proper money. And you know how Gambians love to patronize foreign-owned businesses. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just saying…

Let’s cut to the street entrepreneur that sells ‘ebbeh’ in the neighborhood. Normally that would be a very small enterprise but as soon as it looks like business is picking up, someone else really close-by will start selling the same damn ‘ebbeh’. Now this next person could’ve diversified by introducing ‘wonjo’ or ‘bouye’ or whatever could serve as accompaniment for the ‘ebbeh’ but no, they’d rather go into the ‘ebbeh’ business and operate within the same space.

Granted there’s no harm in competition and it’s a capitalistic world blah blah blah… but wouldn’t it be much better if we actually try to be innovative and carve out new market opportunities?

A lot of young Gambians are very ambitious and hardworking but part of almost everyone’s long term plan involves ‘stealing away’ from this country (like slaves from a plantation). No wonder The Gambia features very strongly when the topic of illegal migration crops up. We are so Babylon-oriented that it’s blinding to all other available possibilities. I’m sure the unemployed youth can provide easy justification for their reasons to emigrate but what about those who left some proper money-making opportunities just to set foot on Babylon’s paved streets? Now who’s gonna pave ours if we all leave?

No one can deny the economic contributions made by folks living outside the country. Shiiiit, I bet every household has at least one ‘semester’ who’s heavily supporting their family’s livelihoods and lifestyle. But I’m sure if you ask the ‘semester’ for their opinion, they’ll confess the need for level-headed people back home to help manage and grow that wealth. I’ve seen some youth doing well in that department. Salute! Also sending shoutouts to all the ‘rabba-rabba’ hustlers, these are the ones “we gave nothing, yet (they) made something doing what (they) do” (Jay-Z/Renegade)

We have a lot of youth involved in entrepreneurial endeavors with impressive back-stories, stories that need to be brought to the fore to inspire young Gambians who don’t even think that creating employment is a possibility. Most of us just want to have jobs and remain employed till Babylon comes calling. In a sense, even the employment some of us seek is just a way to hold on to something until the real blessing in the form of a visa comes your way.

I’m not trying to judge or anything but the worst cases are those with no intention of ever breaking a sweat in Jollof (not to be confused with those unemployed but looking for opportunities). You know because these guys are well fed (‘ndewo – agne – rerr’) and got a roof over their head, they simply sit and wait for Babylon to happen while blaming the family member who in most cases provides for all the luxuries he’s enjoying. (I used he because guys are the culprits in this case). Hell, I just judged a whole group of people but ‘maa teye’.

In reality, not everyone can stay or make it in The Gambia but it is crazy that the majority of us think Babylon is the only way out. I think your Babylon experience would be a lot better if you actually know how to do something with your life even before you set foot there. Food for thought…

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What Do Gambians Do? (Part 1)

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It’s almost Tobaski and a lot of people are hurrying and scurrying to make ends meet. You know, to at least provide the bare essentials for the big day, ‘harr’, ‘mboubi julli’ etc…

Fast forward to day after Tobaski and there’s usually a shortage of bread because the bakers are part of the holy celebrations and most have taken their annual holidays. Two days later people are tired of meat consumption and opt for fish instead but the fish markets are almost empty because more than half of the nation’s fishermen have gone on Tobaski vacation to Senegal (where they’re originally from).

If you happen to drive a hooptie like I do, best be sure it’s in proper condition because your favorite auto-mechanic would be gone for the holidays too. Has it ever occurred to you that most of the automobile terms used in the Gambia are French? That’s because most of our auto-mechanics, electricians and panel-beaters (‘tolier’ men) are from either Senegal or Guinea, with the minority being Gambian. Ventures such as upholstery, carpentry, welding etc have also been dominated by Senegalese entrepreneurs for the longest.

Majority of people involved in the tailoring business are Senegalese; they also happen to have a very strong presence in our markets too. Our neighborhood shops selling daily consumables are mostly Guinean or Mauritanian owned. Most of the notable restaurants and fast-food joints within the Greater Banjul area have Lebanese ownership. I remember back when the vast majority of taxi drivers were Senegalese until the law changed that. Do we really have to wait for legislation to seize the day or for someone to hand us our dream job?

Now imagine a scenario where all these people just up and leave. What would we do then? Better yet, if we got people that are not from here running all these enterprises, what really do Gambians do?

(I haven’t mentioned big businesses/industries because it would be unfair to compare).

However, I believe that embedded somewhere in our Gambian genes, is a micro-chip that makes us think we are too good to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors that require apprenticeship/mentorship. Most of us want to become our own bosses but don’t have the required patience and perseverance to see ourselves through. We want the things we want and we want them now.

(Check out Part 2)

The Jollof Rice Debate Just Started…

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Papa G
Bros. How far now? Why you dey vex?

I don’t mind you calling my essay a “piece of shit” but did you call us “little Gambia” just to trash my argument? You got me laughing right now bro. True Gambia is little, but only in a geographical sense; and that, my friend, does not and cannot invalidate the views and opinions of its citizens in any way. Do you mean to tell me that people from “little” countries should have no opinion? I think the tone of your statement was condescending bro. Apologize man. There’s a whole 1.8 million of us. Do you copy that? 1.8 million people. Lol (I know that’s nothing to you, hence the dismissive attitude). Like most people who can’t make an intelligent argument, you resort to name calling. That’s not cool bro, I’m just sayin’.

That said, i wont take you up on that, I would like us to keep this debate strictly “Jollof”. You see, there is no denying the fact that there are stark similarities in Fried rice, Jollof or Benachin/Thieb like you pointed out. However, my argument is, why would you call yours Jollof rice when you just happen to have Jollof neighbors? Hmmmm. Doesn’t that sound like you jocked your neighbors shit and wanna claim it as yours?

Like i said in the article, y’all could’ve named it Naija or Ghana rice or some other local name in which case Senegambians might’ve been like “oh we got something similar” but no, you guys just flat out took our shit, called it our name and still refuse to acknowledge us. Talk about cultural bullying. You call it Jollof rice because like most imported things, the origin of the product somehow gets entangled with its name. Comprende?

By the way, we appreciate your recommendation to fix our broken education system. We will. But come to think of it, with your kind of English, are you a product of our “broken system” too? Lol. You’re a joke…

The Jollof Rice Debate… Settled

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Dear Ghanaians and Nigerians,

It is always funny when you engage in your frequent squabbles about whose Jollof rice is the real deal. Y’all give us SeneGambians some proper rib-cracking amusement with the so-called Jollof Wars while we watch from the sidelines with a bomb glass of bouye juice in hand.

I don’t even know how y’all got into it but all I wanna ask is that you please stop claiming ownership of something that doesn’t even bear your name(s). Infact before proceeding, say this out loud: Jollof Rice! Good. You know what the name implies right? Don’t worry I’ll explain; in the simplest of terms it means: Rice, cooked Jollof style. Jollof, incase you’re wondering, is an actual place. It was a state that was part of the Wolof Empire located in between the Senegal and Gambia rivers (modern day SeneGambia).

History lesson done; now let’s take a look at how bad you look fighting over what’s not even yours to begin with. It’s just like two side-chicks fighting over a guy who clearly is into someone else. Okay you know what, scratch that analogy before the side-chick rights activists come for me.

Honestly though, I can’t fathom why you call it Jollof rice yet refuse to acknowledge the true originators. Why na? This is not fair my people O. Just because say una get more people doesn’t mean you should take our things now.

The truth is, in between you two, you have blessed West Africa with a lot of culinary delights. Out here in the 220, we indulge in fufu, kenkey, suya, garri, amala, eba, pounded yam and all kinds of delicacies but unlike you, we aren’t laying claim to any of your exports. So why do you want to take our pride and joy? Leave our things alone Oh!

Finally, on behalf of the entire SeneGambian people, I want to request that you kindly give us due recognition for inventing one of the seven wonders of the culinary world. Otherwise allow me to voluntarily suggest that you should create your own version and call it Naija-Rice or Ghana-Rice. That way, peace will reign in West Africa.

By the way it is known out here as Benachin (Gambia) or Thiebou-Dieune (Senegal).

Sincerely, SeneGambians.

Do We Have Celebrities…? (Part I)

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I’ll begin this piece with a question.

Raise your hand if you know a Chinese celebrity? I’m sure the most likely answers will be Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Yao Ming… Yeah… Who else? … See… That’s what I thought. Not too many to count right? Okay away from China and its billion people, tell me how many celebrities you know from Luxembourg, Finland or Japan. None? A few maybe?

You see, the point I’m trying to make has nothing to do with these places because I know for a fact that every country has some celebrated individuals in the arts, sports and other arenas. But because we’ve never heard of them or their accomplishments doesn’t change the fact that that they are celebrities within their environment. In the same light, The Gambia might not have some world famous celebrities but we have people worth celebrating nonetheless.

Now why am I writing about this?

Well, I have seen countless discussions/debates on Gambian social media centered on the title subject and I’ll admit that at some point I belonged to the faction who believed that there were few (if any) Gambian celebrities. Why? My perception was hinged on the notion that an individual had to be super rich from whatever it is that they’re known for, to qualify as a celebrity. I think it’s a fair point still but I’ve come to realize that (although it counts a lot) wealth is not the yardstick by which a person acquires celebrity status. The very definitions of the term ‘celebrity’ focus more on being famous than anything else.

Below are two definitions of Celebrity according to Google

  1. a famous person, especially in entertainment or sport
  2. the state of being well known

So going by the definitions above, is Bai Babu a celebrity? Are Gee, ST. Blackashine or Sista Njie celebrities? How about Modou Barrow and countless other football players most of whom have gotten the three C’s (cash, cars and cribs) doing what they love?

To those of us thinking that there isn’t much love out there for our celebrities, then I take it you haven’t seen the overexcited, screaming and crying fans or the packed venues at events. I’ve witnessed some fan-mania moments that would completely blow you away.

The confusion though, is partly fueled by the ease of social media access which has blurred the line between virtual celebrities and real life stars with actual followings; that however doesn’t mean we should downplay the efforts of our talented sisters and brothers who, with our support and motivation can get on the biggest platforms and represent for the 220.

Everything else aside, I think one of our deterrents going forward is that we have aced the art of shooting down the very people we should be supporting for some reason or another. We find it fairly easy to overlook their triumphs and successes like it was nothing. Just like how we start rolling out some loud a** “boudi ndeys” to our football players when Gambia’s on the losing end of a game. As a fan, I understand the frustrations we go through but damn, we make it almost impossible to represent the country with a pressure-free frame of mind.

Fact is, we have a lot of people worth celebrating so instead of demeaning their efforts, the least we can do is acknowledge them. Let’s give them our support and make it worthwhile. On a closing note Limaa waxh nii nak, bolleh wuma si nyu munut dara. Some people just need to fold it and stop making their peers look bad.

The New Look…

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So I haven’t written a blog post for the looongest minute ever. I think I must’ve temporarily lost the appetite to transfer my thoughts unto my computer. But a few months back when I finally got the renewed vibe to start writing and sharing again, I lost login access to my weebly blog. Then I relapsed again. I still dunno how or what caused me to lose access but every time I log in, I automatically get logged out. Tried everything I could but still couldn’t get past the login issues. Frustrating shit to say the least but its such a shame because I loved (yes, loved) the Weebly platform.

Anyhow, I have transferred most of the stuff I had on there to my new blog hosted on WordPress and I’m feeling the new look. I hope you do too. Please find time to check out the Print & Design gallery while you’re at it. It just about gives you an idea of some of the things I can do for you and much more.

Feel free to tweet me @xmyls or email me at xmyls220@gmail.com. Stay blessed.

 

Seinabo Sey – The Definition of Phenomenal

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It all started with a tweet by singer/songwriter Amie Dibba talking about Seinabo Sey. I just had to satisfy my “degne kumpa” self so I peeped out the link and when I saw the profile picture on the account, I was like, “wait a minute, I know her!”  Real talk I do, or did back in the mid to late 90’s New Jeshwang.

There’s no way I can forget the light skinned little girl and her brother including her mum who happened to be only white lady in the entire neighborhood. On top of that, her dad, the legendary Mawdo Sey was famous too; his “chinn bu narreah neaxh” video enjoyed crazy rotation on GRTS. The song was pretty popular and Seinabo’s younger bro played a cameo role in the video plucking the strings on his toy guitar mimicking the notes on the record.

Anyways back to the issue here, where were we again? Yeah right; the phenom that Seinabo Sey has become. I gotta say I was a little giddy with excitement when I came across this article in Time Magazine. Time F***ing Magazine man! I gotta admit though, first I had to skim through the piece to see if there was any mention of The Gambia and there it was. (Don’t know why I always do that when it comes to individuals affiliated with “The Smiling Coast”). Please don’t judge me, I know it makes no difference but in some weird way that’s how I get assurance that the individual in question is also acknowledging if not “repping” the homeland.

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Without any exaggeration, Seinabo’s effortlessly powerful voice is definitely a rarity in this era of studio-assisted vocal enhancement tools and whatnot. I think her voice sounds something like Amy Winehouse-meets-Adele. There is so much Soul oozing from her vocals which I daresay sounds a bit melancholic but in a really beautiful way that connects with your innermost being. This is very evident on the song “Pistols At Dawn”, one of my favorites; I swear it evokes that edge-of-your-seat twisted crime movie-esque kind of vibe. I have even come across some suggestions from fans that “Pistols At Dawn” be included in the soundtrack for the next Bond flick.

The new single “Poetic” is a prelude to Seinabo’s new album “Pretend” which debuts October 23rd 2015. “Poetic” is an amazingly extraordinary record and belongs up on the Billboard Hot 100 with the very best right now. Best believe I’ve had it on continuous loop these past few days, that’s just how infectious it is. Had she been more famous, I bet “Poetic” would’ve probably hit #1 spot in no time. With some of her videos raking over 2.5 million YouTube views, she is definitely shooting for stars.

You can preorder the album via this link http://lnk.to/PretendPreOrder
Her official website is http://seinabosey.com/

First Published on 8th October 2015