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Super Eagles
'Senegambian Sensation'(RETRO17CD)


The Gambian band Super Eagles were pioneers of popular music in the Senegambian region at the end of the 1960s/start of the 70s, delivering a progressive blend of afrocuban, pop, soul, bluebeat, Congolese rumba, highlife and ndagga music. Using Wolof lyrics & rhythms, ndagga is the basis of what was to become 'mbalax'. During their five year existence, the Super Eagles became one of the best travelled bands in West Africa.

L-R: Dauda Njie, Badou Jobe, Oussou Njie

In Bathurst (now Banjul), the capital of this ex-British colony, the first modern dance band was a loose collection of musicians who played under the name African Jazz. Members included Badou Jobe, Paps Touray, Laba Sosseh (later to join Afrocuban outfits such as Africando), Modou Cham and Oussou Njie.

Jobe, Cham and Njie had started their careers with the Foyer Jazz Band, formed by veteran, partly classically trained musicians, which provided a rich cocktail of European & Latin ballroom music, light classical, old jazz and the hugely popular morna from Cape Verde. The popular music scene, catered for by modern dance bands, had no connection with traditional music, which remained the exclusive domain of the hereditary musicians' caste known as griots.

In 1965 seven of the African Jazz musicians turned full-time professionals as The Eagles of Banjul. They played regularly in Banjul’s dancehalls and throughout the country and their patron Malick Seck took them on international tours to Senegal and Sierra Leone. After Sammy Ndami left, Badou Jobe took over as bandleader, and increasingly defined the band's repertoire by composing original music.

Eventually the core members regrouped in 1967 as the Super Eagles. Helped with a generous gift from diamond dealer Solo Darboe, they ordered instruments, amps and a PA from England. This independence enabled them to travel and play what they liked for whom they liked.

The front men of the new Super Eagles were solo guitarist/ bandleader Badou Jobe, lead vocalists Paps Touray and Dauda Njie (aka Edu Haffner) and guitar/ keyboard wizard Francis 'Senami' Taylor. Other members were Modou Cham (tenor sax and congas), Oussou Njie (singer and lyricist), Charles Valentine (bass) and Malan Gassama (drums, percussion), who was one of The Gambia's finest drummers.

Jobe assisted by Taylor formed the creative team behind most of the compositions and arrangements. The songs were mostly in Wolof or (broken) English with Touray providing some belting vocals in the style of Otis Redding - he was voted best soul singer of Africa - and the band's compositions melded elements from the indigenous music of The Gambia, specifically Wolof and Mandinka.

The Super Eagles’ use of amplifiers, effects and electric keyboards to interpret African music laid the foundation for mbalax, which was popularised a decade later by Youssou N’Dour. In 1968, while touring all over the larger neighbouring country, the band earned acclaim as the top group in Senegal.

The same year they spread their pan-African influence even wider when they toured and recorded in Ghana. An eyewitness [Papa J Mensah], recalls the impression they made in Accra:

'The Tip-Toe Gardens, the venue for the group’s appearance was fully packed for a special big, live music performance with seven of the best big bands in the country, including the African Brothers and Uhuru Dance Band. It was the equivalent of America’s Night at the Apollo, with the Gambian band’s performance being the finale of the whole show. And when they finally stepped up to hit a note, their presentation of their latest, brand-new, all red Marshall amplifiers and other top range equipment, together with their stage costumes, one could sense the band meant real business.

'By the end of the second song, the fully packed dance floor was at a standstill. Awe struck audience, dancers and groovers had all been captivated by this band. Super Eagles were truly super. A bunch of highly talented Gambian musicians tight as a live unit that played a repertoire of all styles with unquestionable precision. I count myself one of the lucky ones at the time to have encountered the Super Eagles band from Gambia; a great African band that made a huge impact on countless swinging Ghanaian ravers and musicians alike.'

In Ghana they recorded several 45rpms [tracks 1,2 and 15,16] including the megahit Mandal Ly which became a hit again in the 21st century at the hands of Africando.

In 1969 they visited Europe and were the first Senegambian band to tour England, where they recorded their album Viva Super Eagles, the title track of which (track 3) called on Gambians to unite in support of the group. At a memorable concert at the Commonwealth Institute in London the band was joined by Teddy Osei and Mac Tontoh, founders of Osibisa. The album was a hit throughout West Africa but, typically, the musicians claim never to have seen a penny of the royalties.

Jobe & Touray deliberately disbanded the Super Eagles in 1972 at the height of their popularity. As pan-Africanists and music pioneers they felt the urgent need for an authentic African identity which led to the creation of the seminal roots band Ifang Bondi (Be Yourself), since grown into one of West Africa's leading bands.

In 1999 Badou Jobe won the prestigious Kora All Africa Music Award - the African equivalent of the Grammy - for Best Arranger in Africa.

The Eagles (1965-67 forerunners of Super Eagles).

DEDICATION
This album is dedicated to the memory of Malan 'Malando' Gassama. Malan was the most wonderful drummer I ever had. After the Super Eagles Malando went to play in the USA with Al Jarreau for many years. Eventually he carved out a successful career in Sweden which included sessions with Abba. Early 99 we had just decided to team up again, recording and touring. Only a few days later, during a radio show we did together at Gambia's FM1, Malan tragically collapsed in the studio and died. Malan, you'll be forever on my dream team! This album is also dedicated to the memory of Alieu Ka (Aliou Gori-Mami), our former manager, who tragically got killed in the the attempted coup of 1981.May their souls rest in perfect peace - Badou Jobe

 

 

 
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