GOKH-BI SYSTEM (pronounced Go-Bee), an African Hip Hop group from Dakar, Senegal performs a unique style of music blending “Ancient” African traditional rhythms and contemporary “Urban” beats dubbed “Ancient Meets Urban”.
In 2016, the band has teamed up with music industry veteran, New African Production, Inc. who represents and manages careers for a variety of emerging artists and has been accredited with launching the careers of a number of artists from Africa.
“Ancient Meets Urban” which tells the story of GBS’s journeys between two worlds –Senegal and the U.S. alongside their musical beginnings which were influenced by hip hop and subsequently incorporated traditional instruments like the ekonting to come up with a truly unique “ancient meets urban” music style.
GBS, one of the leaders of the African hip-hop movement, were born and raised in Pikine Guinaw Rails, one of Dakar’s poorest villages which translates literally into “the other side of the tracks”. A distinctive component of GBS’s authentic sound which you’ll hear throughout their music is the ekonting performed by master player Sana Ndiaye. The ekonting, a three-string gourd instrument, believed to be the predecessor of the banjo is an ancient and extremely rare instrument that is virtually extinct in Senegal. Like the ekonting which defines their sound, Gokh-Bi System’s music resonates in the face of the violence, sexism, and misogyny prevalent in popular hip-hop. As you listen to their music, you can visualize the resilience that has sustained the spirits of Africans despite war, genocide, poverty, famine, colonization, slavery, and apartheid. Sana has toured separately in the USA and has been involved in projects and events that showed off the comparison between the ekonting and the banjo. He was chosen to kick off the premier event for the movie “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart” at the Museum of Natural History in NYC in 2009.
After playing the underground streets of Dakar, in 1999 GBS was discovered by American percussionist Tony Vacca while he was visiting with Massamba Diop (Senegalese percussionist for Baaba Maal) which lead them to perfrom in major festivals including: Montreal Jazz Fest, Bumbershoot in Seattle WA, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival, The International Festival in Louisiana, The World Music Festival in Indiana and Chicago, Festival Nuits d’Afrique in Montreal (Quebec), Sunfest (London, Ontario), Colors Fest Detroit, Floyd Fest...
In 2003, A Round World Music recorded went to Senegal to record their first EP in the US “Mission of Music”. In 2005, their “Mission of Music,” video directed by Joshua Atesh Litle made its world premiere at The National Geographic All Roads Film Festival in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, CA and was added into rotation on both VH1 Soul and BET J. In alignment with their mission to ignite the spirit of global awareness and appreciation and strengthen the ties between African and America, GBS joined A ROUND WORLD (ARW) Music Productions, Inc. as its flagship act in 2003. ARW’s mission is to leverage the universal language of music to stimulate children’s curiosity about world cultures and empower them to explore and discover their world. As Musical Ambassadors from Senegal, GBS’s music has led to an exploration of African culture for American students of all ages.
On “Mama Afrika”, from the same EP, he rhymes: “So many things have happened to you, but we still hope the day is going to come when you will smile again. It’s time to see the sun of peace shining on everyone’s head in Africa and around the world and as you listen, you can visualize the resilience that has sustained the spirits of Africans despite war, genocide, poverty, famine, colonization, slavery, and apartheid.”
In 2008, GBS released Voice of the Jeli a live studio recording which includes crowd favorites from their North America tours. In early 2009, GBS released the single “Rap Tassu” which enlightened people about the origins of rap music. “For centuries in Senegal, we’ve had a style of early hip-hop called Tassu which sounds like drumming and clapping against a chant”, explains Mamadou. It’s basically the music that stayed in the spirit of American-Africans that evolved into the rap music we hear today. On “Rap Tassu”, GBS combine the rhythm of the bougarabou, djeme, and sabar drums, with the melodic ekonting infusing modern sounds of the western guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals and emceeing that distinctly expresses hip-hop grounded in tassu.
“Proceeds from the sale of “Rap Tassu” were donated to the band’s village Pikine Guinaw Rails which suffers annually from major flooding resulting in malaria, death and extremely poor living conditions.
Today GBS divides their time mostly between Senegal and the U.S., spending a majority of it touring and recording new music. They are getting ready for an upcoming summer tour of the US, finishing up two CDs, music videos and a documentary.