By Mamour M. Mbenga
Oliver Mboge: I am a Gambian national who has been playing music since in the 80’s and the founder, lead vocalist of the Oliver and the Chuckets Band.
Q: In which year were you elected as president of the Musicians Union of the Gambia (MusiGam)?
Oliver Mboge: It was after I returned home from England in 2009 to help and develop the young Gambian artistes. The members of the music union elected me in 2012.
Q: Who or what inspired you to become a musician?
Oliver Mboge: May his soul respect in perfect peace. It was my father, Jeremiah Mboge, a Gambian national who was a choir master at the Bethel Church in Banjul. He trained and inspired me during church service, especially the hours of choir practice and this was at the age of 12 years old when I stared with gospel songs.
Q: Did you also study music?
Oliver Mboge: Yes, I studied musicology for a period of one year in a private music school in Sweden.
Q: How old are you?
Oliver Mboge: Huh! My relationship, age and social life is a hidden secret.
Q: Since you started doing music as a profession, how many singles or albums did you produce?
Oliver Mboge: Oliver and the Chuckets released many singles, namely “Sutukung”, Omo Latiday, Ma Sanneh Ceesay, etc.
Q: What kind of music does your band play?
Oliver Mboge: We play different varieties of African and European music in the form of various music genres, for example, Hi life, RNB, Blues, Salsa, Reggae, Jazz, Zuk, etc.
Q: How many musicians were in the Band?
Oliver Mboge: We were nine in number.
Q: Did the band ever engage in an international music tour?
Oliver Mboge: No, we have been playing and entertaining within the Gambia and later in 1985 the ban finally split.
Q: What did you do after the split of Oliver and the Chuckets Band in 1985?
Oliver Mboge: I travelled back to England (U.K) to continue with my music career. I was signed by a record label in U.K called Obitone Records in Nelsen Junction with a friend I met in U.K called Daniel Joof, a former musician of the Ifang-Bondi Band. We recorded and produced singles and an album and our promotional single was called Superman. The contract deal was terminated in 1987.
Q: What were your plans after the termination of your contract with the British record label?
Oliver Mboge: We decided to work as solo musicians and established our own record label in U.K called Dan and Oli Records and we produced a couple of hit songs, especially a song entitled Sweet Candy Love which was a hit single played in both England and the Gambia at stations like Radio Gambia and Radio Syd. We also did a promotional tour in London and Scotland.
Q: How many countries did you travel to in the course of promoting your music?
Oliver Mboge: We have visited countries like the U.S.A, England, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Russia, Scotland, Holland, Kenya and Senegal.
Q: It has been observed that since your election as President of MUSIGAM, you have been operating without an office. Can you explain why this is the case?
Oliver Mboge: You are right. An office was never provided for the Gambian artistes and it is the duty of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) to provide us with an office and music instruments that can support and contribute to the development of the Gambian artistes. I was elected as the President in 2012 but I am not receiving a monthly salary. I am therefore the only one doing this in a voluntary capacity. I have the opportunity to travel back to the U.K but have decided to stay and struggle to see that things have changed and are done in a normal and professional manner. The road to success is always full of stones and holes but as patriotic citizens, we should love, care and support our nation. For the Gambia our homeland, to the Gambia ever true.
Q: Why is your music union not a member of the International Federation of Musicians in Kenya?
Oliver Mboge: We once attempted to participate in 2012, but we were rejected due to the fact that we were unable to satisfy the official qualification requirements to become a registered member.
Q: How many Gambian artistes are registered as members of the union?
Oliver Mboge: We have more than five hundred artistes.
Q: What are the requirements for one to be registered as a member?
Oliver Mboge: The artist should visit the office of the Collecting Society of the Gambia (CSG) at the Hotel School in Kanifing South since we do not have a permanent office yet and the phone contact is 6417206 or email Musigam@gmail.com.
Q: What advice do you have for Gambian Musicians?
Oliver Mboge: Let them come and work with us mentally, physically and try to perform live music as well as practise playing musical instruments and promoting our culture in the international music arena.
Q: Thanks for granting me this interview.
Oliver Mboge: It’s my pleasure and thank you too for informing the citizens about the music landscape in the Gambia.