About Bass Njai


:: BASIRU (BASS) NJAI ::

Bass is a professional percussionist a songwriter and composer.

I 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.

I 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 ::

In 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 eat together.

But 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 singing.

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.
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I 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.

Then 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.

This 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 town ceremonies.

So 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.

In 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.

In 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.

I 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 and traditions.

For contact: Bass Njai - Tel.: +45. 62 25 15 94 - e.mail: bass@african-drumming.com