Setting the Stage: Growing the Gambian Music Industry

This weekend, we had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with Abdou Karim “Waagan” Fye. Mr. Fye is a business owner, music producer, and activist. He is the Founder of Black Lynx, FiilaTV, and the Chair of the Association of Gambian Promoters and Producers. Black Lynx is Gambia’s biggest entertainment company hosting the country’s largest, annual music event the ‘Open Mic Festival’.

In a world consumed with greed and obsessed with success, Abdou is simply setting a different example, one that focuses on following your passion while helping your country. He represents the image of what Africa needs to take its profile, economy, and social capital to new heights. He is what happens when you live to give, instead of receive.

We asked to share his story.

 1. How did you get your idea or concept for the business; your motivation?

I’ve always loved music and wanted to be a part of the business in one way or another. I tried to be an artiste, but eventually found myself in the business and production aspect of the entertainment industry.

2. What is unique about your business?

The music and entertainment industry is relatively new in The Gambia, so one has to be innovative and creative. Our industry was never looked upon as a potential (profitable) business but now that perception is slowly changing. The thing about it though is, now a lot of people want to get into it. However, most of them are imitating what seems to be working, and not coming up with new ideas.

3. Who is your target audience?

We want to go with the mantra ‘think global and act local’ so our immediate target audience is the average Gambian, but considering how to attract the world at large. We want to have a Gambian and an African identity.

4. How do you connect with your audience?

When we started, we realized the need to go to the neighborhoods and entertain people in front of their doorsteps, and they just gravitated to what we offered. We eventually unearthed a lot of hidden talent and the word started spreading. With the growth, we started a radio show and tv show called FIILA, where we showcase local artistes. In addition, the advent of social media opened new windows for promotions and advertising.

5. To what do you attribute your success?

I think our success came from providing a need for the masses. Gambia has had an identity crisis, and we showed that all we needed to do was be themselves, go back to thinking global and acting local. Also, perseverance and hard work counts and the unseen recipe of luck. In addition, it’s important to know how to do the job, know the ropes and be blessed by the Almighty. I think that’s the recipe for success in whatever you do.

6. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

There is not one particular moment that’s been the most satisfying, but the fact that people are enjoying and benefiting from your ideas and complimenting what you do. When I see guys who came on as a novice, and have become great and passing forward what they have learned from us makes me believe my work can outlive me, and I feel I didn’t do it in vain.

7. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur in your industry and/or in general?

Certain things are not only based on skills but passion, hard work, perseverance and an unflinching will to make it. Passion makes you keep going because you enjoy what you are doing, and it makes you work harder and smarter. You always want to find solutions to new problems. Also, like I said earlier you have to find your niche, know the job, understand what needs to be done and pray for GOD’s blessings.

8. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

Failures or low points are needed sometimes to put yourself in check, and to let you know there’s a higher power in control. It’s what you choose to do and how you react to it that makes you stronger. For example, we started an entertainment newspaper but it didn’t take of how we hoped, so we shut it down. Even the things you succeed at can also have lows, but you take it in good faith and keep on striding. Some of my best work were as a result of prior failures.

9. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?

Fortunately, for me, my wife is also in the media and entertainment industry. She’s very supportive which helps. Our kids seem to enjoy being around the job as well, so we are slowly indoctrinating them into the business.

10. What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

To make it, one has to make major sacrifices. It takes investing time and a lot of other resources. You have to be willing to go the extra mile, and take calculated risks. Some will fall short, but the few that go through make all the difference.


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