BASIRU (BASS) NJAI ::
is a professional percussionist a songwriter and composer.
have been playing drums all my life, the time I become 16
years old. I started to play more professional.
And I have teach all kind of people to find there spirit by
play drum and to guard them how to use there spirit together
with drum spirit, as I mansion before there are three spirits:
the drummer spirit,
the skin spirit and
the carved trunk of a tree spirit.
have teaching kids from seven years old in the kindergartens,
in schools and the alder people and also institutions for
psychological problems both mental and physical. I have travel
to many different countries in Europe to give drum teaching
and some times to give a performance, but I am living in Denmark
right now, so if you are interested in drumming lessons or
a concert and knowledge about my culture and tradition.
My musical life and how i became a drummer
Gambia as child you don’t go and buy toys in shops not
when I was a child first there was no shop you could go and
buy toys, and the second thing was that the people were poor.
So as a child you have to find out things for yourself, how
to entertain you’re self, so you have to use your fantasy
to entertain your self.
So I would always go and find empty tins to use as a drum
with the other kids, and the girls would sing and dance while
we did the drumming for them, but as child you are allowed
to play drum on empty tins, but not drum with skin. The compound
I was born in contains about 150 people who live there, it
is like a big collective and men eat together and women also
there is know family who play music .in that compound there
are many families living there, so it is very offend that
we have naming ceremonies or weddings. And normally when it
is a wedding or naming ceremony they always call the musicians
to come and play for them. When there are a naming ceremony
in the morning the musicians they play acoustic instrument
and in the evening the drummers will play for dancing and
So when the drummers are going to play, I would go to them
and try to help them carry their drums to the place they are
going to play. That way I hade chance to play on their drums
before we reached the concert hall and at the concert I always
concentred on the drummers, how they played the drum and the
way they used their hands and the nest day I would go and
try to play the rhythm I heard from those drummers. That was
how I taught myself to play on the drums.
cannot go and ask a drummer from a musical family to teach
me. Maybe he wouldn’t like to teach me; because they
have this traditional belief that it is only them who are
supposed to play music and they teach only, members of their
family. So the only way for me play was to teach myself to
play drums, I went and brought myself a drum to play on, you
can buy a drum from the people who make drums, they are not
musician. It was very easy for me to buy a drum, but I still
had a problem, where to play my drum and I could not at home.
I was not allowed to play drums, so I had to find somewhere
I could play my drums without my family knowing about it .so
if I wanted to play drums I would go to the seaside where
many people don’t come, then I could find a place where
I could play my drum freely.
I have been drumming by the seaside for many years, and what
I did was listened to the other drummer the rhythm they played
and I would try to play the same rhythm as the drummers. So
this is how I toughed myself to by imitating the musicians
or the drummers in my town.
one day I decided to stop hiding from my parents, and I stared
to play my drums freely .At that time I had a friend who play
drums and he too is not from a musical family .so we decided
to find other people to join us to make a drum group or band,
and we had drummer from different tribes some were from a
musical family and some were not.
was a good balance in the band, the fact that we come from
different tribes. So we decided that the music we were going
to play in this band was going to include all tribes, which
means we play all the tribes there’s music. That was
something new for the people in the country to see a band
playing music from all the tribes. Which was a big musical
change for the people in the country.
We name our band after Roots Kunta Kinteh, which is a very
well known, when you come to Gambian history, at the time
of slavery and the name Kunta Kinteh helped us, because people
could always recognise our band and we get more and more popular
in the country, but it is youths who came to hear us when
we are playing, because the alders in the town still don’t
accepted us as a musicians. So we don’t play in the
we play in hotels and restaurants in the general surroundings.
When people want to here us playing they have to come to these
places. Then after three to four years the alder people in
the town started to accept us as musicians and we can play
for people when there are ceremonies in the town. And we are
the only drum group in the whole country in that time that
plays music that includes all the tribes. But their have being
a band call Bantaba Binday is before Root Kunta Kinteh, I
have played with Roots Kunta Kinteh for ten years.
1990 I come to Denmark to teach people drumming that was a
big experience for me to come from a very warm country to
a cold country, and the culture, tradition and the mentality
is very different, the people use their brain more then the
body, because they forget to used there body. So I teach people
how to find their own spirit by playing a drum. Which is very
different to do, if you are brought up to use your mind more
then your body, of course if you don’t do something
about it you will end up not knowing your own spiritual power.
Which every one has it in their body is just to lead it out,
because in any culture or tradition music in the world there
is always a sound of a drum in that music.
Denmark I came to know other kind of traditional music from
all over the world, which if I was living in Africa maybe
I will not here some of these music’s. Of course all
music comes from Africa, from the beginning. But the music’s
become very modernize when it come out of the African continent
and in the African continent where the people have the root
of all music in the world, which was very fascinating for
me, so I started to play with different people and bands to
put my Gambian traditional music’s into the modern music.
have played all kind of music with different bands and people
from different nationalities in Denmark. All music is great
no matter where is comes from as long as you can listen to
it and enjoy it. Of course every person has their own favourers
music, even I have my favourite music, but I always listen
to new music or searching for new music to listing and it
doesn’t matter where the music comes from, as far as
it is a music I will always give my self a chance to listing
to that music.
When I listen to music other than my traditional music’s
always try to find the rhythm or the drum part. Because of
this misperception of percussion, the drum was relegated to
the background in all music traditions and compositions in
the hold world. So if I listening to any music I try to compare
it with one of the traditional rhythm from Gambia. And I always
find a rhythm to play in that music I here from others culture