Gokh-Bi System (a.k.a. GBS)
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Gokh-Bi System (a.k.a. GBS)

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"Gokh-Bi System - 2006 Bumbershoot"

Back at the Bumbrella stage, the growing throngs were being whipped into a frenzy by the drumming and rapping of Senegal's Gokh-Bi System. Their name means "neighborhood," though it's a long trip across cultures from their Dakar 'hood of Pikine to this mostly-white Seattle crowd. Which proves something about the universality of music. Refreshing for a hip-hop group, Gokh-Bi brings live rhythm in the form of a kit drummer, two percussionists on African drums, and a bass player with ankle-length dreads. They pumped positive vibes into the appreciative crowd. A true moment of cross-cultural bliss. - SOUNDROOTS


"GBS Opens For Femi Kuti - Northampton, MA"

By the time Femi Kuti took to the stage last night, the crowd had already been thoroughly worked by the Senegalese Hip-hop act Gokh-Bi System. Gokh-Bi, which means "Neighborhood," is a young six-piece that blends traditional Senegalese rhythms and harmonies with hip-hop and funk beats, underscoring French and English rap-lyrics. The result of this fusion was a show as vibrant and colorful as the tie-dyed tunics the entire band sported. Gokh-Bi’s message centered on the themes of love, peace, and justice as well as Africa’s struggles with poverty, inequality, and HIV-AIDS. The electric performances of the two MC’s who fronted the band were only outdone by the high-voltage dance moves of their hype-man. This earned them the kind of applause that audiences usually reserve for the main act. - Boston Live Magazine


"Hip-hop Takes a Joyful, Respectful Place Alongside Traditionalism"

Gokh-Bi System adds hip-hop to a Senegalese continuum. Its album sets positive-thinking raps (in English as well as Senegalese languages) to handmade music: percussion, singing and riffs plucked on the ekonting, a Senegalese lute. Hip-hop takes a joyful, respectful place alongside traditionalism.
- New York Times


"GBS Headlines at Festival Nuit Afrique"

Friday afternoon, the Festival Nights of Africa was left not impressed by the rain. A few hours after the downpour, one evening charged was announced in the Emile-Gamelin Place, on Berri and Ste-Catherine. Sam Fall, Krechendi, Motor bike of Kapia, Septeto Variedades and Ismaël Isaac were to deliver scenic services. Ismaël Isaac, a reggaeman of the Ivory Coast carrier of humanistic messages, was the reason of our presence.

But the stars had been aligned differently to give rise to a new constellation: Gokh-Bi System, a formation completely out of the commun run, which had already ignited Balattou Wednesday on July 20.

Gokh-Bi, which means "environment", is an unequalled Senegalese group which amalgamates several musical styles with the hip-hop. African percussions, sequences of battery "abstract hip-hop" very present, a bass player very funky with dreadlocks , a player of ekonting which sang and, to close the loop, two MC except pair, form a very coloured group. The majority of the members grew in Guinaw Rails ("the other side of the railroad"), a district low in margin of Dakar, capital of Senegal.

But that is not enough to put them aside of the remainder. What really distinguishes them, it is that both "MC" rappent bottom of the heart on traditional musics mandingues. The instrument which they put in the high-speed motorboat: the ekonting , is a Senegalese instrument with three cords. If you do not know it, one should not you worry because this instrument is even ignored in its native soil.
"When the villagers were in confusion, one used this instrument to give them in peace, to help them to divert itself, and so that they really hear something which them release", explains Mamadou, one of the two rappeurs.

Like the ekonting , group GBS belongs to an endangered species. They produce hip-hop in charge of positive words while preserving the cultural heritage of their nation.

On the external scene, they were easy to notice, with their green clothes, yellow and red, the three colors of their flag. Abdou, the dancer, envoûta crowd with her movements of breakdance mixed with African dance, while the music spread this spirit of festival around.

When they performé "Mama Africa", a soft dedication with their ground-mother, the festival ones saw the true potential of GBS, with a refrain very hooker without commercial being orchestrated with long passes of ekonting . Moreover, the verses of rap always so powerful and positive made it possible this song to have the effect of a bomb.

But all the ears were stuck to the loudspeakers when Backa, the percussionnist, was transformed into beat-box . On its side, Mamadou emptied its heart in a text highly committed as regards the social and emotional aspects with a song which treated children, maltreated throughout the world.

"Nowadays, it there has much violence in the world, much injustice, of wars tribales, entrusts to us it. And the children are always victims of these violences. If one kills the children of today, who will be the tall ones of tomorrow?"

On the other hand, Backa accelerated the tempo (doubled) to allow Diasse Pouye, the MC which accompanied Mamadou, to show what it is able to make. It rappait at phenomenal speeds, with at least sixteen syllables per measurement (4 times per measurement).

They left after ten songs, leaving a delicious flavour, without one being able to crunch there. The visual effect of the costumes and the daylight was phenomenal, the energy of the musicians and arrangements superb.
- Epoch Times International, Monteal, Canada


"Success Shines on Sunfest"

With young stars from Canada and around the world heating up Victoria Park, Sunfest 2005 pulsed its way into the record books last night.
The big numbers include the four-day attendance reaching close to 200,000 by Sunfest's estimate and Scottish band Celtica Salsa's sales of about 200 CDs after it hit the stage as the bandshell's closing act last night.
On the stages, youth stepped up time and again.
Toronto's Sophie Milman, 21, billed as the new voice in jazz singing, played two fine sets on her first visit to London. Among other new performers to impress yesterday were Newfoundland guitarist Duane Andrews of Carbonear; Senegalese hip-hoppers Gokh-Bi System, now based in Massachusetts, and Toronto world beat ensemble Autorickshaw's singer, Suba Sankaran.
- The London Free Press


"Waking Up The Dead: Senegalese Gokhi-Bi System Breathes Life into African Hip Hop"

I had the pleasure of watching Gokhi-Bi System (GBS, pronounced Go-Bee) perform at Prospect Park, Brooklyn, a couple of summers ago. Their performance which was a mixture of urban sounds with traditional west African roots was so impressive that I never forgot them. Their words, their movement and their performance showed them to be a force to be reckoned with. Fortunately, the world is recognizing this, as they get heavy play on TV Stations like BETJ and VH1-Soul.

Pammy: Why Hip hop?

GBS: Hip hop is closer to our realities as youths from Africa. Hip hop represents the voiceless in our society. Hip hop is about our life. In fact, we are hip hop.

Pammy: As we all know, hip hop originated from the U.S.A? What is the difference between your brand of hip hop and those performed in Africa, in the United States and other places?

GBS: I believe we are taking it to the next level by incorporating the old and the new. We have Sana using the ekonting which is one of the ancient instruments from Africa which symbolizes peace. We are trying to bring the old and the new together. The major difference between our hip hop and others is that: we are principled hip hop artists. We are here to spread a message about love, peace, justice and unity just like the griots from Africa.

Pammy: On that note, what do you consider your musical mission as being?

GBS: Our mission is to share our knowledge, to bring peace and to spread love and to talk about justice.

Pammy: Do you have any plans to collaborate with any artist in the near future?

GBS: We will be collaborating with dead prez. We are excited about that. To us, hip hop artists like Dead prez and Talib Kweli represents real hip hop. These are people who only care about the message. We will also love to work with Daara J from Senegal. They are a phenomenal group and I am proud of how far they have gone.

Pammy: We have many artists going to Africa to perform on social issue platforms. Do you believe music can create changes?

GBS: Music is an expressive explosion of reality. Being able to understand the core center of music within the emotional space can create a change. I remember growing up in the slums of Dakar, Senegal, we used to listen to Bob Marley and cry without understanding his words, and we just knew he was talking about our reality. We could understand his words at a subconscious level. Music is a universal language and can change one’s philosophy of the world. Music is a weapon.

Pammy: Some say that hip hop is dead – what do you think of that statement?

GBS: Some would say that: if they only look at commercialized hip hop music that talks about girls, money, cars, jewelry and the rivalry that exists between several hip hop factions. When one looks at that they might believe hip hop is dead but you have underground hip hop artists who are real and their message is about social issues. So, no, hip hop is not COMPLETELY dead.

Pammy: Aha, you mentioned girls – how do you deal with the groupies that flock over after shows?

GBS: All members of GBS are spiritually grounded – we are all Muslims. We understand that these girls do not love us rather they love the music that we play. For some, they love the idea of being associated with a musician. Keeping those thoughts in mind, we make sure that we do NOT get involved with groupies.

Pammy: How do your significant others deal with your career?

GBS: We have been blessed to have people in our lives who understand that music is our first love. As such, they do not view our careers as an enemy to the relationship rather they do all they can to help us realize our dreams. When we chose our women, we chose people who we knew Loved what we do and loved music.

Pammy: Do you listen to other kinds of music outside of hip hop?

GBS: Yes, we do. We listen to primarily West African traditional music because that is our back ground. Before, we discovered hip hop, our message was being spread through griots (traditional story tellers), who performed for money. Our roots are still in West Africa.

Pammy: Do you have any new cds coming out soon?

GBS: Yes, we have Rap Tassu and that should be out before the end of the year. - AfricanLoft


"This hip-hop ensemble from Senegal came on like a trainload of tough love"

Bumbershoot
Seattle Center
Seattle, WA USA
September 2, 2006 – September 4, 2006
by Nick Morrison

Gokh-Bi System: This hip-hop ensemble from Senegal came on like a trainload of tough love. Having grown up in the slums of Dakar, they know better than the rest of us how far 'down' is and they've come up from there to insist that we join them in embracing the world. Two hand-drummers, a trap-set drummer, a bass player, a dancer, an ekonting player (look it up—I had to) and four vocalists. When these guys tell you to dance, you don't say no. - Harp Magazine


"Senegalese Hip-Hop Ambassadors Spread Their Message to Minnesota"

Last month, Senegalese hip-hop superstars Gokh-Bi System made their first appearance in the Twin Cities, rocking the Cedar Cultural Center with their fusion of traditional West African storytelling and music with the most globally-popular music of today, hip-hop.

The group's tour is promoting their first full-length album, Voice of the Jeli. A jeli, also known as a griot, is a long-revered figure in West African traditions of poetry and storytelling, an oral repository for history, knowledge, celebration, and political criticism. The modern griots in Gokh-Bi System (which means “neighborhood system”) use the medium of hip-hop as a way to spread their musical message of peace, love, and justice.

“It's very important for us to mix the traditional with the urban music,” Mamadou Ndiaye, the group's lead MC, told Mshale in an interview at the Cedar's Green Room a few hours before the show. He believes that through such a combination, they can “catch the old generation with the traditional music and catch the youth with the urban music.”

This emphasis on connection is not only to bridge the generational gaps that so often develop around hip-hop. Gokh-Bi System and many other hip-hop artists from Senegal—which possesses one of the largest hip-hop scenes not only in Africa, but also in the world—see contemporary hip-hop is descendant from tassu a rhythmic oral history in Senegal.

“This is our roots, this is where we come from,” Mamadou said.

Mixing lyrics in Wolof (a Senegalese language), French, Arabic and English, Mamadou's words echoed off the Cedar's walls with the voices of generations of poets before him. Yet much of the group's “traditional” sound could be heard in Sana Ndiaye's akonting performance. Ndiaye made this three-stringed lute sound like a 12-string guitar throughout the night, with quick runs and can't-help-but-move syncopations that danced with the polyrhythm created by the incredibly-tight rhythm section.

The audience certainly got their money's worth, with the group playing over an hour and a half. After some encouragement from Mamadou and other members of the band, the crowd was coaxed from their chairs and were soon in front of the stage, dancing with as much energy as the members of Gokh-Bi themselves. A few adventurous Minnesotans even got up on stage and danced with the band.

While Gokh-Bi System are one of the best-known hip-hop groups to emerge from Senegal, including the groups that originally inspired them to make music like Daara J and Positive Black Soul, the group realizes they have a much bigger potential for change far beyond the borders of Senegal.

We don't represent just Senegalese hip-hop,” Mamadou said, recognizing the group's place as “African hip-hop ambassadors.” For the members of Gokh-Bi System, the group represents “the image of Africa (and African hip-hop) any place we go.”

The group has been part of the Senegal-America Project, as well as wider projects such as the National Education Association's “I Love My African Child Campaign” and a CNN documentary about African hip-hop.

With covers of “Get Up, Stand Up,” shouts of “One Love,” as well as their own politically forceful lyrics on songs like “Mama Afrika” and “Solidarity,” it is clear that the members of Gokh-Bi System recognize the political power that hip-hop yields.

“I think hip-hop is one way to unite us,” Mamadou said of Africa.

The group also sees itself as a voice beyond the African continent, “We always want to stand for those without a voice.”
- Justin Schell, Mshale News


"Voice of the Jeli CD Review"

Though based in Massachusetts, Gokh-Bi System is an African (Senegalese) hip-hop band, and one that is at least as loyal to its traditional, griot roots as to any sort of modernity. That sets them apart from the likes of Daara J, Awaadi, and most West African rap acts to date. As much as these musicians borrow and channel, they never completely shed the village vibe, and that’s a good thing. Gokh Bi makes explicit the tie between the griot and the MC or rapper, sharing “musical expertise and political commentary.” But as they sing and rap in African languages, French, and occasionally English, the music persistently conveys the roots message. The banjo-like ekonting, a griot instrument found in southern Senegal and Gambia, is a near constant presence, accompanying Sana Ndiaye’s plaintive vocal on spare, acoustic “interludes,” and working its spiky, percussive plunk into the weave of full-on dancehall, pop, and rap tracks.

The four Senegalese principles sing and rap well. (They are also terrific on stage with dance moves and up-ful energy to spare.) And the band they’ve assembled in America cooks along nicely, without getting in the way of the 21st-century griots’ roots agenda. “Yeremande” builds an ambling dancehall groove around a traditional folk riff, and ends with a soulful, 4-part vocal breakdown. “Mama Africa” peppers a rap-laden backbeat with cracking, sabar percussion. Memorable melodies abound in a repertoire that happily merges singing and rapping. The funky and melodious “Cheri,” a standout track, strikes a magical balance between celebration and edge, and culminates in a welcome English rap.

Elsewhere, one occasionally longs for translation, notably on the driving rap number “Palestine,” which clearly has a lot to say, though about all an English speaker will catch is “Peace and love.” This is, of course, the difficulty with rap music in any foreign language. Rap puts a premium on communication, thus emphasizing the language barrier, rather than eluding it as the prior generation of Afropop genres often managed to do. The good news is that Gokh Bi’s approach is so musical, that they manage to split the difference arriving at a sound that feels fresh and modern, but contains enough authentic African musicality to enchant and intrigue the outsider.

Contributed by: Banning Eyre for www.afropop.org
- Afropop.org


"Voice of the Jeli CD Review 2"

Melstar finds Gokh-Bi System's “Voice of the Jeli” a very more-ish album, a wonderful accomplishment. “Voice of the Jeli” is soothing yet upbeat, using the gentle rhythmic melodies of the ekonting to give Gokh Bi System their distinctive sound. With plenty of infectious beats and heartfelt lyrics, the album quickly had her reaching for the repeat button.

You’ll be drawn to the beautiful voices of Backa Niang and Sana Ndiaye on ‘Solidarity’ which brought tears to my eyes. The track ‘Bakanam’ had me joining in, and hitting that repeat button with all the fervour of tassu – the drum, the rap, and the song.

In ‘Palestine’ the urgency of the message purports itself in the flow and heartfelt determination of the emcee. And Gokh – Bi System asks the questions and voices the answers that we are all thinking of – love and understanding. As with all the tracks the lyrics speak simple straightforward truth, and that’s why they resonate. The underpinning factor, I believe, that brings me back again and again and also leaves me with a bright hopeful positivity after listening to this album.

It’s multi – layered woven and then bound tight like a musical tapestry.

“The Voice of the Jeli” is an important melange. It’s a taste of the past, present, and future of Senegal. The album encapsulates the importance of the Jeli ( a storyteller) in West Africa’s history, and pays homage to the messages and stories passed down. And how? Through the rhythmic flow of rap ‘Tassu’ intertwined with the sound of the ancient instrument the ekonting, and beautiful song. It works so well. It’s not rough, it’s not raw. It’s multi – layered woven and then bound tight like a musical tapestry. A satisfying cd that nevertheless left me wanting more.....an opportunity to see this crew live.

Reviewed by Melstar of United Nations Hip Hop About Melstar
- Round The World/Melstar


Discography

Discography/Videography

1999 - Featured on Tony Vacca's album Rhythm Griot (World Rhythms, USA)
2001 - Message From Home (World Rhythms, USA) featuring The Last Poets
2001 - Featured in an international hip-hop documentary for CNN (USA)
2002 - Africa Rap Compilation (Trikont, Germany)
2002 - Raise Your Hands (Ladiaz Production, USA)
2002 - 411 (Debut album for Gokh-bi System in Senegal)
2003 - Furious Force of Rhymes (Hip-Hop documentary, USA)
2004 - Pour Mouy Leer (Siga Productions, Senegal)
2005 - Mission of Music (A ROUND WORLD Music Production, USA)
2005 – Mission of Music music video (A ROUND WORLD Music Production, USA)
2005 – Mama Afrika music video (A ROUND WORLD Music Production, USA)
2005 - John Whitehead Tribute CD (GBS performs “Wake Up Everybody”)
2007 - Live at Northfire (scheduled for November)
2007 - "In God We Trust" will appear on Many Lessons, compilation scheduled for release globally by Piranha Music (Berlin, Germany) in January 2008
2008 - Voice of the Jeli
2009 - "Rap Tassu"

Photos

Bio

Childhood friends from the Dakar, Senegal hood of Pikine Guinaw Rail-literally "the other side of the tracks"- Gokh-Bi System (pronounced Go Bee) reunite rap with its ancient West African ancestors in a style dubbed "ancient meets urban.

"Formed in 1993 by three childhood friends: Mamadou Ndiaye (Emcee), Diasse Pouye (Emcee), and Pape Bathie Pouye (Music Director/Manager). The three boys were transfixed by the conscious lyrics and powerful messages found in hip hop and began creating their own lyrics against the beat. They started out imitating what they heard on the cassettes, combining English, French, Arabic, and several other Senegalese dialects including Wolof (the official language of Senegal), Serer, and Jola into their own flow. Soon freestyle turned into original compositions and the boys from the other side of the tracks added Backa Niang percussionist/vocals) and Sana Ndiaye (ekonting/vocals) and christened themselves Gokh-Bi System which means neighborhood system.

A distinctive component of GBS's authentic sound is the ekonting, an ancient instrument once used to calm social unrest played by Sana. Gokh-Bi's positive message, inspired by rap greats from The Last Poets to Chuck D, transform the group's sound into an uplifting yet hardhitting African homecoming for hip hop that has been described as The Roots hanging with Baaba Maal. Drummer Matt Garstka, bassist/keyboardist Joe Sallins and Guitarist Greg Garstka add modern instrumentation while an African dancer adds energy and movement to the stage performance.

After producing a number of recordings in Senegal and reaching #1 on the charts, in 1999, the group was discovered by U.S. producers visiting Senegal who recruited them for the Senegal-America Project, a non-profit organization that exposes American school children to African music, dance and culture. In 2000, they were selected by CNN to represent the African hip-hop scene in a documentary on music around the world.

Their 2001 release Message From Home united GBS with The Last Poets. The lovely and mournful "Xaesel" which laments the use of skin bleaching agents made its way on Africa Raps, the first compilation of songs by African rappers. In a review of the compilation, The New York Times reported, "Gokh-Bi System sets positive thinking rap (in English as well as Senegalese languages) to handmade music, percussion, singing and riffs plucked on the ekonting, a Senegalese lute. Hip-Hop takes a joyful, respectful place alongside traditionalism."

Between 2002 and 2004, the band solidified their musical presence in Senegal with the release of “411” and “Pour Mouy Leer,” which produced a number of hits for the band and a permanent home on the radio and cassette players of their fellow countrymen. In 2005, the band's North American release Mission Of Music climbed to #4 on the Global Rhythm Top 10 Charts. They filmed two videos, "Mission Of Music" and "Mama Afrika", both directed by Joshua Atesh Litle. The video for "Mission of Music", an official selection of The National Geographic All Roads Film Festival, made its world premiere in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, CA and aired on BET J, VH1 Soul and The African Channel.

In early 2008, "In God We Trust" was featured on Germany's Piranha Muzik compilation Many Lessons. In December 2008, GBS released Voice of the Jeli a live studio recording which includes crowd favorites from their North America tours. Voice of the Jeli is distinctively different from its predecessor Mission of Music with a decidedly more traditional feel, highlighting the percussion of Backa and Sana's ekonting. On Jeli, radio-friendly "Musica Del Mundo" (Music of the World) boasts that music is a universal language uniting people around the world. Jeli is available on CD Baby as well as digital distributors including itunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc.

In March 2009, GBS will release the single "Rap Tassu" which will enlighten people about the origins of rap music. While it is well known that Hip Hop is an American creation, its origins are rooted deeper than the Boogie Down, Bronx. Historically in Senegal, the drum and rapping have been part of tassu, a system of communication used by jeli to spread news amongst villagers. “Tassu survived the Middle Passage, crossed over oceans and time and found its rhythm reincarnated in the microphones of emcees who continue to ride the beat, send a message about what's going down in the streets and tell their stories like the jeli of Senegal," explains Mamadou, the emcee of GBS.

The band's third music video "Rap Tassu" was shot in hidef, directed by Ilse "Boogie" Rumes and produced by AMU Music/Hybrid Lounge Productions. "Rap Tassu" proceeds will be donated to the band's village Pikine Guinaw Rails which suffers annually from major flooding resulting in malaria, death and extremely poor living conditions. The band will perform a number of benefit shows in 2009 to support this noble cause.

In addition to rais