13 July 2012

Gambia: The Formidable Baye Janha - An Incredible Guitar Legend


This article is intended to help guitar music lovers out there add some Baye Janha style to their own taste and music style. One of the original "guitar gods," and one of the few Gambian guitarist who is still around today, having some of his style incorporated into your own can add a lot of depth to your music. He's best known as an electric guitar bass player, yet throughout his career he's played Afro Manding, Mbalax guitar sound, Malian, music Hi-life, Reggae, blues and jazz, you name it.

A guitarist who was used for many Afro Cuban-oriented dates and occasionally played Jimi Hendrix and Afro rock, Baye Janha had an appealing sound and was best while performing Khalam and Kora melodic blues. He was most significant to the Afro Manding world in the early '70s & 80s, when he recorded often as a sideman for Ifangbondi, later on with the group Karantaba and on isolated tracks on his own sessions. Baye Janha's fine Gibson guitar set in a Jazz tradition shows what he could really do.

Baye Janha plays the guitar like the ancient Khalam of the Wolof tribe of the Senegambia region and tje Ganawa south Moroccan sound to a mass effect with his guitar. He was the band leader of the Gelewarr band, the Super Aligators, Faboulous Eagles, Supreme Eagles, Tambato band, the Karanta band and Ifangbondi. His playing technic can be distinctly heard on the SARABA CD/ALBUM recorded in Senegal on Griot records.He was awarded a medal in Algeria as one of Africa's top guitarist with his solo group The Karantaba Band.

Xhalam, also spelled khalam, is the Wolof name for a traditional stringed musical instrument from West Africa. The xhalam is thought to have originated from modern-day Mali, but some believe that, in antiquity, the instrument may have originated from Ancient Egypt. Many believe that it is an ancestor to the American banjo. Important past and present xalam masters include Sàmba Jabare Sàmb, Ama Njaay Sàmb, Abdulaay Naar Sàmb (all from the Jollof), Abdulaay Sosseh (from the Salum), and Bokunta Njaay (from the Bawol) and Bassekou Kouyate.

Traditional accounts among the Wolof agree that the founder of the state and later empire was Ndiadiane Ndiaye who lived in the 14th century. The foundations of the empire were set down by the voluntary association of several small states beginning with Waalo in the north. At the time just prior to the empire's formation, Waalo was divided into villages ruled by separate kings using the title Lamane.

Baye Janha's musical evolution started from his early days in Banjul, to his time as a journey-man musician touring the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mauritania where he won a medal for his guitar works in an all Africa Music competition in the late 70's all the way to his explosion on the popular music scene in London and beyond. His exhibition at the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the showmanship experience weave together the various musical styles and cultures that Baye Janha soaked up throughout his journey has made him one of the world's greatest.

Overall, his experience is intended to advance guitar playing in the African continent. The first half of his solos might be soft and cool but as he swell with the music rhythm he expound and explode into a Supernova. One of the things that particularly shaped his sound, especially on the first album with Ifangbondi were the flanger pedals, It were the flanger that gave him the overdrive sound, and that were responsible for the raw sometimes little uncontrolled sound.

In some songs he uses the Khalam effect in front of the flanger to give an octave higher mixed in, and more aggressive sound. If you back of the volume knop on his guitar, it is possible to ´clean up ´ the sound from the flanger Fuzz, so that you just get a little bit of snarling on the clean tones, when he hit the strings harder.

I don't know how much Baye Janha have used this, but he certainly has a snarl on many of his clean sounds. Certainly one of the most relevant guitarists of the last 35 years, Baye Janha's influence has been dominant amongst guitarists in the African pentatonic and the pentatonic genre, yet stretches out beyond that, influencing many young Afro Manding and Sene- Gambian Guitar players's and modern guitarists of African music styles.

Perhaps the biggest influence Baye Janha would make in the world of African guitar was not via his choice of notes or licks, but his sound, one which many African guitarists strive to achieve. His Guitar style offers visitors insight into Baye's gear set-up and choice of effects. Simply matching Baye's set-up won't necessarily give anyone that classic Baye Janha sound you're looking for, however. much speculation has been made about the singularity of Baye's sound being due to his decision to play with guitar effects and pedals.

It is clear the direction the guitarist's music have taken. Some speculate that Baye would have return to strong African roots, an area the guitarist always explored extensively in his live performances. Others suggest his associations with Ifangbondi would have propelled him a foray into Jazz music.

Indeed, his usage of voicing (often referred to in Senegambian circles as the "Bye-chord" implied an interest in sounds not normally associated with Gambia music. Of course, no one knows for sure the direction Baye would have taken if he was still performing live on stage and in studio . All we can do is to appreciate, and learn from the music of Baye Janha.

Over the course of his career, Baye Janha created several guitar sounds that guitarists have ever since tried to recreate. His lead style is bursting with soul and blues flavor. Baye Janha credits players such as Hank Marvin, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix and Bo Diddley as his first major influences.

With these influences and his own creative imagination,creates solos that are nothing less than pure magic. The following example provides a tasteful blues-influenced solo in the style of Samba Jabare Samb, a halam player. The renowned guitarist Baye Janh and his inimitably smooth and soulful phrasing shines on "Saraba Song by Ifangbondi."

A prolific guitarist who is comfortable playing African Manding, blues, soul, R&B, and jazz; Baye Janha is a prominent figure in Senegambia music circles since the mid-'60s. He initially did freelance sessions with such musicians asbefore becoming house guitarist for Fabulous Eagles. Baye Janha's sensitive, often funky chording, riffs, and licks were heard on numerous releases by such artists like Badou Jobe, Sekou Diabate Bembeya, Ousman Beyai, Kebba Taylor, Ebou Touray, Yahya Faal, Jimi Mbaye and Lamin Faye Lemzo.

In summary, it is certain that Baye Janha one of Africa's guitar greats. A Hall of Fame guitar maestro who is recognized worldwide as one of the top notch players in the global music industry. Others in line with Baye are the following guitar masters: Franco of the O.K Jazz, Beko (Jerry Malenaki) of the Ryco, Dr. Nico (African Fiesta), King Sunny Ade (Nigeria), Ebenezer Obey (Nigeria), Sir Victor Owaifu (Nigeria), Philip Tabane (South African Jazz Pioners), Ousman Kuyateh (Salif Keita & Les Ambassadors- Mali), Gerald De Pinio (Heartbeats -Sierera Leone), (Sekou Diabate Bembeya-Guinea), Shiek Tijan Taal Senegal), Alfread Benoman (Ghana), Samba Njie Tchacho (Cameroun), Kante Manfila *Mali), Syran (Congo), (Boplo) (Congo), Vincent Ngune (Cameroun)and Badou Jobe (Ifanbondi, Gambia).

Baye followed the footsteps of Sammy Ndam'e, Jallow, John Campbell, Badou Jobe, Meh Johnson, uncle Nicky Boy Prom(father of Leon Prom) etc.. He took the long road to venture in pop music before rephrasing his music to African. He played songs like Axis Bold as love by Jimi Hendrix and All along the watch tower, Sunshine of your love by Eric Clapton, the Jeff Beck Songs, Alvin Lee, Pete Townstead, Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Richie Blackmore (Deep Purple) and a host of Rock ballads.

Baye Janha grew up in Banjul South, Afdie and played his guitar to friends at the junction of Hill Street and Hagan Street to friends like the late Churchill Drammeh, Babou Ndour, Tafa Jallow, and Kebba Njie etc some of whom later became musicians in the same Fabulous Eagles band.

Baye Janha traveled to Ghana in the Kwame Nkurumah study project including many Gambians youth, the likes of Tijan Koro Sallah, Junkunda Daffeh, Lamin Janha, Musa Bittaye, Dr. Dawda Faal, Pa Landing Drammeh (the Group Leader) and many more. He studied Pan-Africanism in Ghana and studied the books of Nkumarah like Dark days in Ghana, Hand book of Revolution warfare, Consciencism, a;so books of Franz Fanon, Cheikh Anta Diop, Chancellor Chandler, Che, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Patrice Lumumba and the Axiom of Kwame, Challenge of the Congo and the entire Nkrumah collection of books and pamphlets.

Baye is a musicologist and have the ideology to match is music composition. He composed over 100 songs in his career and has work with almost all African bands including the Great Ifangbondi but notably Baye was known as the Gelewar band leader and has formed the most important tunes in the Gelewarr catalog. He worked expensively with Laye Ngum to make the Gelewarr a formidable force.

Baye Janha and the Gelewar Band of Banjul have been further developing the Afro-Manding sound during a short period in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With strong percussion, a psychedelic tinge, prominent keyboards and saxophones. Baye Jahna was an original member of the Fabulous Eagles together with John Campbell, Sogie Sock Lead Vocals, Edu Hafner Lead vocals (later with Super Eagles), Dodou Darboe vacals, Kwesi Mboge vocals, Laye Sallah Sax, Ebrima Jallow Cox Drums and Oussou Lion Njie.

It can be said for certain that baye Jahna is the DNA of the Gelewarr band. He mastermind change of name of the Fabulous Eagles to Supreme Eagles and later to Alligators Band. This change was due to the Point that Bambo Night club was newly built and Baye Janha was invited to form a band with a brand name and with new instruments as a resident band at Bambo Night Club in Serrekunda. He accelerated his stage presence and his popularity catapulted him to Superstar status.Baye Janha propelled the Gambian Music scene to a Pop music industry level.

Veteran Guitarist and bandleader Bye Ebrima Janha who together with friends consolidated a formidable group with acoustic guitars playing hits from Jimi Hendrix, The Cream, Otis Redding, James Brown, Blues and Rock. Baye and his music was rocking like the Santana, the Rolling stones and with the street music of Jimi Hendrix while the Super Eagles were played a more super slick type of music of the Beatles and the soft rock music of the Animals including Congolese songs and Pop hits like "The House of the rising Sun".

He commanded so much respect that his friends were the elites and the noble men and women of that time. He worked so hard for the Gambian music and made so many national inspiring songs that encouraged, warned and consolidated the tribal lines and made the Gambia great. His guitar music is uplifting, original and indigenous.

Baye Janha has been further developing the Afro-manding sound with Ifang Bondi during a short period in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He formed the Tambato band, the Karantaba band with a sound brand of a strong percussion, a psychedelic tinge, prominent keyboards and saxophones.

He is one of Africa's great guitar legends in line with aces like Dr. Nico, Sekou Diabateh Bembeya, Franco, Papa Noel and Becko of the Ryco Jazz. A guitarist who was used for many Afro Cuban-oriented dates and occasionally played Afro rock, Bye Janha had an appealing sound and was best while performing Khalam and Kora melodic blues.

He was most significant to the Afro Manding world in the early '70s, when he recorded often as a sideman for Ifangbondi, later on with the group Karantaba and on isolated tracks on his own sessions. Bye Janha's fine Gibson guitar set in a Jazz Tradition shows what he could really do. Bye Janha just returned from the United States and he is calmly relaxing in his compound in Sere Kunda with his family.

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