Posted - 10 Mar 2016 : 11:22:27
Banjul Night Life: City Entertainment in the good old days
The Daily Observer: Published on Mar 7, 2016
The Gambias capital, Banjul, will be 200 years next month. This city, dominated by the Wolof tribe, is home to more than 30,000 inhabitants with a rich and diverse culture.
Life in the city in the 60s, 70s and 80s used to be exciting. In this edition of the Observer Light, we bring you some witness accounts about Night Life in the Banjul.
For Abdel Kabir Ngum, a renowned Gambian musician, growing up as a youth in the city was fun. People usually went out at night even though I was not a social one. I came late at the ladder, as my grandmother wouldnt let me go out especially at night. She would go willi-wallo on me if I would think of leaving the gate at night. My grandma was simply watertight jealous and she would always reject my request to go out. But down the road I had a mulato or a Lebanese girlfriend and many parents during this period were very frightened of white people. When Gambian girls came to ask for me she would drive them away and tell them we will wait for men to come for us and not for us to follow men, he recalled.
Abdel Kabir noted that as the years went by, his grandmother became too shy to drive away the Lebanese girlfriend and as a result she would welcome her whenever she paid him a visit.
My grandmother did it against her wish. She would tell me Abdoulie come your white woman is here. On weekends Banjul was beautiful and there was this Swedish lady called Mrs. Wardner, who initially built Wardner Beach Hotel. She had a boat called Chetta 2, which had a mobile radio inside. She was later given license to set up Radio Syd and thats how the said radio came about, he added.
During weekends, he went on, some of them would go to Chetta 2, noting that the late Gibou Jallow also had a very beautiful club called the City Pride on Buckle Street. Alongside this was the Sahara Night Club, which was initially Luizette Bar and Restaurant. Later Modou Gaye opened a new club called The Talk of the Town, also situated at the junction of Buckle & Hill Street.
Every Friday or Saturday, young people from all over Banjul will converge around Buckle and Wellington Streets where we often interacted and had fun. We were very decent, and truly respectable to each and other to be quite honest. We were not into some of what I see today. We were very well mannered. Like if you went to Buckle Street, Wellington Street you would see everyone you wanted to see because everybody used to go there. We also had few cinemas namely Ritz Cinema on Fitzgerald Street, Odeon Cinema on Lasso Wharf Road and the Banjul Cinema on Leman Street, he added.
At the same time, during this period young people used to study hard especially when they were in the process of doing their O Level Exams. We had time for our books and homework. Our teachers were very strict especially when it came to our homework, as they didnt take chances. Unlike today, if a child would do wrong another parent could discipline him or her and when they reached home if they would report being dealt with for doing wrong, they would be disciplined a second time. It was taboo to do wrong, as it would be considered an insult to the entire family, as we lived as a family, one for the other. This was during the days of Bathurst, he added.
Another Banjulian who has great memories of Night Life in the city during this period was Oussou Njie Senor of the Super Eagles Band. He said Banjul had lots of bars and few nightclubs, but coming to the mid-60s this began to change with lot of nightclubs and bands like Super Eagles Band; others came from Sierra Leone and Senegal.
He further stated that the night life in Banjul was steered by popular night clubs like Blackstar Night Club, and there was the Louisette Night Club at Buckle Street that played classical music like Foxtrot, Tango, Rock n Roll, Trist, Rumba, Merrengeh and Pachanga.
He said Banjul had other nightclubs like Foyer Nightclub, Ritz Nightclub, and other nightclubs in Bakau and Serrekunda where Haddys Taban Nightclub and B.O Jannehs Nightclub that opened mostly on Sundays as all bands were in Banjul.
Oussou Njie further revealed that night life in Banjul was filled with lots of things to live by, clubs were small and could take lots of people so most shows were done in tennis courts, music and dance shows, and one fundamental lifestyle about night life in Banjul was that women never paid to enter big shows; only the men paid from D2 to D5, unless for regular night clubs then women paid D2 or D3 to enter.
Club life at night was all organised with invitations that had all the songs to be played by the MC, and we had the 9 oclock dance; if one missed that then your night was incomplete. In a night club a man could not just go and dance with any lady, you had to go and ask the ladys permission, if she was with her partner you would seek the partners permission, if granted the lady would then select the music on the card with the time that song was to be played, you then went to the MC and marked that track so when it was time you could go and collect the lady for a dance and after dance, you may buy a drink for that lady and took the lady to her seat, which was perfect and so, so wonderful, he added.
Dress code, he said in the late 50s to early and mid-70s was all-conventional for men with shirt with bow tie and Cumber band (Belle band), and women with dress flowing on the ground with a tight dress upper waist. He further added that one thing that brought people together in Banjul was to entertain themselves, because after work, the body needs to rest a while and then go out and have fun, and during those days working hours were from 8am to 12 noon.
He said people met in Vous, a place where civil servants met and shared their days work and spoke about life in Banjul, and Vous were all over the country, to have nice time play draft, card games, ludo and dart around mostly in night clubs.
Bands that played in nightclubs were Super Eagles, Supreme Eagles, Alligators, Karantaba, Gelewarr; all these bands were stationed in the Greater Banjul, until the late 80s when they started to have bands in Serrekunda and Bakau.
ST Marys School Hall was also a good place for night life in Banjul, especially dance shows and music performance; City pride at Buckle street was another place to enjoy a cool night out and also Q-Club near the cemetery, and it was most used for afternoon jump on Sundays from 4pm to midnight, tickets were D2 to D5.
According to Oussou Njie Senor, nightlife in the capital city was filled with lots of entertainment and enjoying the Rumba, Tango or Merrengeh with a little twist of Rock n Roll on the downtime.
According to Tombong Saidy, one of the must popular places to go during the 70s and 80s in Banjul was Cafe Texaco on Independence Drive, which was owned by Amigo Jeng. There was also Youth Center where most passing out parties and other private parties where held. Playing football, Warga Warga at Box Bar Stadium was very popular. Banjul was clean and the streets were paved. The gutters were so clean that you would see small fishes swimming in them. I hope those great days could be brought back. Banjul was the nerve center of The Gambia on all fronts, economic, social and political. I miss the real Banjul, he lamented.
Speaking to Waka Jagne, he said he was very young during the 70s but could recall the lots of vous and boys forming clubs like young commodores and many more in different areas of Banjul. Waka added that these vous or clubs would contribute and organise parties in homes.
Since I was a kid then, I could not get into nightclubs. The nightclubs I can remember were City Pride, Adonis and Oasis. The Cinemas I used to go to were Ritz in Fitzgerald Street, Odean Cinema and later Banjul Cinema. As young boys, most weekends we stayed at home and Bagn lal (drinking attaya till late), he concluded.
Sheriff Janko, Hassan Jallow & Alpha M. Kamara contributed to this story.
A clear concience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone