Anyone who has heard the songs “Don’t do that to me baby”, “False Love” and “Love’s a Real Thing” from Luaka Bop’s World Psychedelic Classics will know why Paps Touray was voted best soul singer of Africa; a man with a raw soul voice.
One of the most recognizable Gambian vocalists to come out of Banjul was Paps Touray. Like high premium chocolate, Paps Touray has a voice that is smooth, rich and velvety. Pap’s vocals promote sexiness, sultriness and sensuality and he convincingly belt out with the prowess necessary to render social change, equality and global consciousness. Affectionately known as the “Abess,” Paps has been famously known to cater to children by holding “Schools children only” concerts and handing out gifts and hugs to the children.
Paps started his musical education with the Gambia Police band as a trombone player and later a drum major playing the Bass drum, the tambour. One day, he left his work at the Police Barracks in Bakau to attend the Gambia Workers Union strike for salary increase and he was spotted singing “We-shall-not-be-moved”. The next day he was dismissed from the Police Force. Later that week, he went to Dobson Street in Banjul to join the African Jazz under the entrepreneurship and direction of the late Alhagi Chamsu Coker and Late photographer Uncle Malick Secka. Later him and the Congolese named Sammy Ndame and Merciline together with Solomon Cole, a schoolteacher and former musician started what later became THE EAGLES BAND. Paps was a renowned sportsman, a fabulous athlete. He was the national football goalkeeper, White Phantoms football FC and the Gambia football team in the 70’s. He was a sprinter and he tried the javelin and discusses throwing. He was a youth leader and a champion of workers and women’s rights. He loved children so much and composed the Youth Song for children of the Gambia. Some say that he used to sing while goal keeping and sometimes he would forget the game and meditating on his song until the ball would hit the net as a goal before he realized that it was a football game and not a music stage. This happened in a match with Liberian. The Liberian captain with the name of Mass Sarr (Spark), he was a striker, a Gambian by birth but naturalized in Liberia by public demand in Liberia. He did not want to score against the Gambia. He kicked a slow rolling ball but Paps did not see the ball, he was singing in the goal until the ball assed him. The Gambia lost 6-0 to Liberia at the Box Bar Stadium.
Paps Touray showed interest in playing music first at Foyer French School Music Hall where cousin Maestro Salsa King of Africa and the heart and soul of Africando and inventor of Salsa- Mballax , the Gambian singer Laba Sosseh introduced him to the rehearsing band members of Portuguese-Africa origin, natives of the Cape Verde Island who migrated to Banjul. The Foyer Hall was in the heart of Wolof and Portuguese Town Ward of Banjul South. The musicians then used non-electric instruments like bongos, box guitars, contra bass, clarinet, violins and vocal groups and solo singers.
There are few singers that it didn’t matter what they sang. It was the voice that sold the song. That was Paps Touray, his animal magnetism, irrepressible. There isn’t an honest person alive in the Gambia who wouldn’t want for one night to feel what it would be like to have the hypnotic sway Paps Touray held over fans.
Paps Abes Touray was the lead singer of The Super Eagles and Ifangbondi Bands; he was a composer, songwriter and a musicologist. He was an intellectual and Poet, and a flamboyant artist who had a message and he never works for the love of money but laboured for love and gave his service to the Gambia and mankind. He gave away whatever he had to people around him. He lost everything he had just for servicing the poor. He applied the goal for good in his messages and the unity of one goal for all Gambians.
He was a righteous man with an unselfish purpose to serve his country. Just Like the late Otis Redding sang in the sad song “Mr. Pitiful”- How can a man sing these sad songs, they called me Mr. Pitiful that’s how I got my fame, but some people don’t understand what makes a man feel so Great! Because he emptied himself of earthly desire and gave up everything he had just for the cause. Paps Touray was a good person with a beautiful pattern of conduct as a musician.
Paps’ voice was raw and gravelly, but not in a way that hurt. It was a way you wanted to touch — especially if you were one of the legions of screaming fans that flocked to his shows. Fans famously threw themselves on stage when Paps sang, mesmerized by a voice that somehow seemed more manly, more virile than other singers.
Music has a long history of therapeutic use from playing a traditional role in healing rituals around the world to its recent use as an integrative treatment. Find out how music to your ears can add on years. For thousands of years, music has been used in medicine. Ancient Greek philosophers believed that music had healing effects on the body and soul. Singing and chanting have been a part of healing ceremonies for millennia.
In the Ottoman Empire, mental illnesses were often treated with music. The Senegambia, Serere tribe used Ndop’e for centuries from healing through dancing and chanting. There is evidence that music therapy can reduce high blood pressure, depression, and sleeplessness. In Alzheimer’s patients, music therapy was shown to significantly reduce anxiety and aggression.
While there are no claims that music therapy can directly cure diseases like cancer, medical professionals do believe that music can reduce certain symptoms, help with healing, improve physical movement, and enrich a patient’s overall quality of life. Music therapy is often used in combination with meditation and visualizations.
One Quote of Paps is that “Reason and insight can penetrate life mysteries when you can subdue the forces of nature”. Paps Touray was a singer and one of the creative influences of the world famous Super Eagles band and Ifang bondi Band, which he formed with friends like Badou Jobe (guitarist & Bassist) to become the most successful African Music Band on the continent of Africa and the runners up were the famous Bembeya Jazz of Guinea, the Ryco Jazz of Congo, Manu Dibango of Cameroun, Osibisa of Ghana and Hugh Masekela of South Africa. These are the giants of African music.
Paps open warm-heartedness and love for music always forced him to sing with others in duets, trios, quartets, and quintets. He was free in his heart and one of the highest pleasures in his life was making music and composing songs. His trio vocal team of the Super Eagles included Edu Hafner and Oussou Njie Senor (Must-Stop) were the singing Angels of Africa and also his duets with Ali Harp at Ifangbondi were amazing. In his face there was a beaming brightness of Bliss. He was clean in mind, body, soul and intention, a real contact with the meaning. His music is still precious and preserved in its purity.
He said, when you learn new things, you give your brain a workout; why not learn a new instrument? He has found and thought that people who take music lessons have increased IQ levels, even showing improvement in non-musical abilities. Also, when you play a wind instrument, such as the saxophone, flute, trumpet, trombone, clarinet — even a pennywhistle, you get the added benefit of improving your lung capacity.
Music is for all ages, there is increasing evidence that regular mental and physical exercise maximizes overall health and functioning in older adults; for aging individuals who are prevented by disability from participating in active physical exercise, music bridges the gap — providing the significant benefits of both mental and physical stimulation to even frail older adults. Whether enjoying the social experience of singing in a choir or reflecting on a musical recording, music can serve as an effective healing art for older adults as our bodies run on biological rhythms and function best with consistent routines; sleep is no exception.
His songs were innovative, inspiring songs of joy, love and revolution. He composed the great Gambian music encyclopaedia of beats, rhythms, melodies and harmony scores that became the yard stick for weight and dept in Gambian music that wasn’t in American music, free from impersonation and free from instinctive imitation songs, rejected copying western clothes and fashion style, reject bleaching and hair frying. He was the true culturalist and a Pan Africanist. The veil of illusion and the concept of make all believe disappeared with his music and image.
With Ifangbodi, Paps set the creative cultural music revolution in Africa. Ifangbandi opened the eyes of Salif Keita, Youssou Ndour, Mory Kante, Baba Maal, and Toure Kunda. The Hall of Fame Jamaican Reggae super star Jimmy Cliff came to the Gambia in search of his roots and visited Paps Touray and the band. He travelled to Senegal with Ifanbdondi to see the band play in Dakar. Dollar Brand alias Abdoulah Ibrahim Jazz pianist also visited the Ifangbondi band for musical inspiration and performed with them in Dakar, Senegal.
The biggest visit was by the American Jazz Band, King Oliver Nelson with his 32 piece big band performing in Banjul at the McCarthy Square (July 22nd Park), Carlos Santana almost made it here but was delayed in Cassamance, Taj Mahal, Youssou Ndour and Herbie Hancock also visited the land of music, the Gambia, the birth place of the musical instrument the Kora. How can anyone ignore his music or treat it with contempt or refuse to allow it to improve your life.
This city of Banjul was were the first songbird of Africa and the star of the Paris music life and known all over Europe, the Great Lady Vicky Blaine was born, she conquered France after the American belly dancer Josephine Bake retired. Vicky Blain lived at Dobson Street in Banjul Half-die a few steps away from where Paps lived.
Vicky was Paps Touray’s musical sister and friend. They together sang on stage the famous Vicky Blain songs such as “Black as Night”, “Bismi la”, “Sunu Musal Kat” etc which were huge success in the clubs of Monte Carlo, Ibiza, Monaco and in many parts of Europe and the world over. The Duets of Paps and Vicky are full of versatility.
Paps Touray used his deep baritone voice to promote original Black African naturality and Gambian spirituals, to share the cultures of other cultures and countries, and to benefit the labour and social movements of his time. He sang for peace and justice in 5 tribal languages throughout the Gambia and Senegal and the West African region, including the African communities in Europe, the USA, and Africa.
Paps Touray became known as a citizen of the world, equally comfortable with the people of Senegal, Holland, and Sweden. Among his friends were the great African Poet and first President of Senegal Lepold Sedar Senghore, he had many friends in neighbouring Senegal which included a sample list of the following: Film writer Ousman Sembene, Anthropologist Chiek Anta Diop, Actor and film maker Djibril Diop, Mam-Betty, Magia Nyang, Dodou Njai Ross, Gran Balle, Tenor Jeng, Mbye Dieng and Madam Mitcxhl of Balafong Night Club, Super Djamano Claude Geuye (Impressario) and Prosper yang (Xalam 11) Cheik Batchally & Joe Wakam, Framcis Senghor and Frenchman Hanri, Marget Wadda, Samba Jabare Samba, Abdoulaye Narr Samba and Amad Njai Samba and the list goes on.
In the past few decades, research has found that slow, soothing music is generally beneficial to one’s health, whereas fast, jarring music is not. Listening to calming music enhances cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, and reasoning skills; even better, it boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscle tension, regulates stress hormones, elevates mood, and increases endurance. Traditional and Classical music and meditation music were found to have the most benefit on health. On the other hand, irritating sound can cause stress, with all its negative consequences for your health.
Paps Touray together with Senemie, Francis Taylor, Badou Jobe, Modou Cham, Oussou Njie, Charles Valentine, Malando Gassama, Edu Hafner Pa Lamin Drammeh and Alieu Kah first broke to fame with the Super Eagles before breaking though into the global music business and music scene with some of the members as Ifangbondi Band with an original brand of sound called Afro Manding Sounds. The sounds revolutionized and a re-branded the name to be called Ifangbondi meaning to “Show Your Self”. The Afro Manding Sounds was the Pan African sound composed for Africans and freedom fighters for one Africa.
The success Paps Touray brought was an anchor to Ifangbondi than fitness for all the African bands pursuing the Pan African sound and since the market range of the Gambia was small, a country of 800,000 people then, they brought Senegal on board a country of 12 million people, whose music had no originality and direction due to colonialism and cultural suppression.
Paps and Ifangbondi went to live in Senegal for a wider African listening audience and fan base. Most bands in Senegal at this time were white people from France and they were our neighbours, we integrated them into the music of the Wolof, the Fula, The Jola and the Mandingos.
THE DESTRUCTION OF GOOD GAMBIA MUSIC BRAND
Paps introduced modern music attitude in the sub region thought people how to make tunes and arrange chords to form musical styles, as well as the introduction of electric instruments, synthesizers, the electric guitar, drum set and stage show appeal. The Senegalese authorities’ offered Ifangbondi a citizen status for the band to live and work in Senegal but the band members rejected it and decided to live and work from the Gambia.
Paps Touray and Ifangbondi migrated to Senegal to broaden their market because of a wider fan base to increase their financial income to return to the Gambia to start a music industry in the Gambia. The Government at the time promised them a piece of land at Tobacco Road for a multi-purpose Auditorium, Recording studio and Performance Arts Centre.
But later through envy, jealousy due to their fame, worldwide success and female fan appeal, the officials did not like it, nor to see anyone successful and stand out, totally liberated and free. They disliked anything that runs counter to their tradition lifestyle. Malignant envy translated into action; always seek to destroy the happiness or the material or the spiritual good enjoyed by others. Ifangbondi was sidelined and destroyed. The arrogance and rejection was too much to bear.
They made a compromise with the system for public good and made a second request for land for a Music school and Music Business Centre but the application was again rejected. The band was taking water to the sea by spending money to uphold the Gambian music scene without returns or recognition within the Gambia. Facing such denials, impossible situations and political harassment and FEAR the band took a strategic retreat to Cassamance, in Senegal. The country was living-off the boys and pretending that they were useless while the world knew what was happening.
Playing Music was banned in the Gambia due to the state of emergency in July 1981 and the fear of public awareness and vibrant democracy pushed the band members travelled to Europe and America to start new lives but scattered in various location. This was the end of good music in the Gambia. This was going to be Gambia’s Hollywood had it not been abandoned. By this time we would have been making CD players, DVD disc at low cost and distribution network worldwide. We could have been distributing to Europe, Asia and America music from all over Africa processed, mixed, mastered in the Gambia and sent all over the world.
Paps Touray and Ifangbondi were sidelined and denied the rights to history, to their vision imprint in-order to start a music capital in the Gambia and make history. The fabulous life of Pap Touray was more accepted in Senegal and in the UK than in the Gambia. If anything, there was a musical scene in The Gambia, instrument shops and repair studios, with a transport system and communication system supporting the music industry.
Paps Touray was registered with the Senegalese copyright office B.S.D.A in Dakar and B.M.I of the United States, he convinced Ifangbondi Band to opened a Music administrations office at 20 Hope Street in Banjul and employed a secretary on pay roll, employed technician and drivers for their fleet of cars on pay roll, opened a science lab and repair atelier and paid all staff salaries on time and supported all promotion action and activities both locally and internationally.
Pap Touray was compared to Paul Robeson, the great African-American singer who inspired Kwame Nkumarah, Jomo Kenyatta, Azikwe, the Great African Liberator I.M Garba Jahumpa and Julius Nyerere, Oliver Tambo, Tom Boya, and others in the 40s in England that they must go back home and free Africa. Paul Robeson was awarded the Grand Order of Russia by Stalin for his music and died in the USA in the early 60’s.
A COUNTRY THAT DOES NOT MANIFEST PROFESSIONAL CULTURAL VALUES PUBLICLY IS A POOR DEVELOPMENT OF A PEOPLE IS AUTHENTIC CULTURE.
In country that respect artists creative assets and economic gains and asset service for commercial gains, a Russia for example, the DUMA (House of Commons) recommended and implemented that all classical artists are honoured with a decorated cabin with their works. Their works were translated in symphonies and concertos, copyrighted, distributed and paid in advance for performance rights in theatres all over Russia and the rest of the world which made them all ready-made millionaires including Tchaikovsky before their works hit the stores.
He was the fashion eye of the Gambia, Ghana and Senegal with great wardrobe of suits, costumes, white, hats, bow and flying ties, pointer shoes, Chelsea boots, Tony Perkins pants and sexy looks that attracted women lovers all over the world. He was a Real star and the first Gambian Superstar. His dress code partner was the late Jody Faye, a singer and a youth man full of culture and guts.
Mandingo Beat is the last recording of Paps, a polished and moving creation of The Soto Koto Band and Paps Touray, the leading lyricist, composer and singer in the album. They play Gumbay music or music from West Africa. The music is hot and rhythmic, featuring a strong West African-Cuban sound. Tourney’s voice is rich and mellow. His lyrics delicately probe a common human thread of love and respect. This is African jazz played at its best on synthesizers, guitar, African percussion and a small orchestra of brass.
But as unforgettable his voice and performance, his most remarkable gift was an incredible capacity to persevere – a refusal to quit no matter how dire the hardship. It was only his untimely death that stopped his string of unrelenting triumphs over personal demons and misfortune that would have broken a lesser man.
His life and the lessons it provided will stand for as long as his voice replays. Hopefully the Paps story will be retold as more than a singer with amazing talent and charisma. Paps discovered that the difficult lessons are the toughest to swallow, but learned well they are also the ones that get you through the toughest times, making life a genuine gift. “The country was living-off the boys and pretending that they were useless while the world knew what was happening”.