Much to the likely dismay of the artists themselves and die-hard fans of authentic African hip-hop, this disc has been sitting around in my possession for quite some time just waiting for it’s time to be put to the critical test. I usually do not get this personal, but I must say that I had expressed my concerns to the webmaster about the influx of albums coming to that feature rappers that flow in a different language than English. It is very ethnocentric of me I realize, but seriously this would be a concern for the listener as well. A moment of blissful realization hit me though–that is, music is about expression, just as paintings are, and it does not really matter from where people are native, but rather if you can vibe to their offerings.
There is so many fitting aspects to the Gohk-Bi-System (pronounce Go-Bee) and to how they present themselves. Coincidentally, the G.B.S. finds their musical home on a label entitled ‘Around the World Music’. Also, the Gohk-Bi is Senegalese for “neighborhood” , which coincides with their collective vision that the world is a global community, or a family. This concept is both a nice and optimistic vision in light of some of the problems that plague the Earth, but it is received with open arms.
Despite their attempt to fuse the sounds of ancient African rhythm and North American hip-hop the resulting sound is decidedly that of their decent. Most notably, are the sounds of the ekonting played, an ancient and rare three-stringed gourd instrument–the percussion and hand drums are played by fellow member Backa Niang. The final vibe of the music created by these instrumental compositions can most closely be related to Jamaican reggae music, but certainly creating a different take on that genre of music.
“Mission of Music,” this debut six-track EP kicks of with the first official track, the title track. The first verse is in English which is inviting to a listener that goes into the album with any predetermined expectations. However, sometimes the heavy accent can make the vocals hard to discern. The musical backdrop is mostly drum driven and it is a refreshing type of sound that conjures up thoughts of Marley. The lyrics are simplistic (as there is a clear cut indication that the depth of English diction is not fully explored), but uplifting and motivating, as is the message that G.B.S. presents to their audience. The second verse is in Sengalese as this exchange of language becomes a regular trade off throughout the short album. Overall, the first track is probably the best and sets the light tone of the album nicely.
“People Are Talking” by no means is a weak second cut though. In fact, it can definitely appeal to fans of contemporary R&B as it has a more synthetic sound. The bass is far too deep to maintain the organic sound of the opening track. They prove their point of hip-hop being a global community when they name drop near the end of the track with the line, “Hit the ‘Quality’ like Talib Kweli and the ‘Hi-Teknology’ psychology”. This is a brilliant move for commercial purposes as it is almost awe-inspiring to hear an MC in Senegal shout out great American MC’s.
The MC’s, consisting of Mamadou Ndiaye and Diasse Pouye start to favor their comfort zone and resort to a more strictly African sound. “Mama Afrika” is a fitting tribute to the great continent of black heritage. “Adjoua” has a chant like chorus and a verse that is so choppily delivered as a string of sounds in the native tongue that it is hard to believe that the rapper is saying anything no matter what language he is spitting in.
The G.B.S. has found their niche’ of success–hitting #4 at one point on the Global Rhythm Top 10 chart. The group has found respect within the community while sharing the stage with the likes of Kanye West, Tribe Called Quest and Damian Marley, respectively. Even though they may not be quite in that league yet, they hope to show more of their abilities on “Rap Tassu”, their future full length endeavor. The fusion of popular hip-hop and ancient African rhythms does not reach complete balance on this album as one may find themselves more intrigued by the harmonies more than the bars, which consequentially effects the result of the lyrics rating. One last thing about the presentation of this album is the important note that it comes with a DVD disc that includes two music videos for “Mission of Music” and “Mama Afrika”. The importance of this addition is that they prove that they have presence of the screen and even though the videos are mostly just shots of them and their surrounding landscape they show a hint of promise
The lesson that I learned in 20 minutes from listening to the Gokh-Bi System is an important one. Music is created well when it evokes the feelings and thoughts of an artist, or group of artists. It really is ‘Around the World Music’. The G.B.S. are successful in presenting a positive image, despite their harsh upbringings in Senegal, akin to the conscious rappers of hip-hop in the United States. So, if you just want to vibe out to something fresh, new and fun, think about what we are fortunate enough to be offered in the modern age that has created a global community–one that the G.B.S. respects so dearly.