#TrueOpenMicFestStories: Written by Ya Mallen Jagne

We have gathered many stories during the journey with Open-Mic Fest. Some are awe-inspiring, some are solemn and some, absolutely hilarious. This story is one of the funny ones.

We all were prone to mischief in our younger days. But some of us, I suppose, were more prone to mischief than others. And as much as our mischief tended to draw exasperated superficial curses from our loved ones and malicious foredoom from –umm, our less-loved ones, you’ll find, amusingly, that some of us had held on to the art of mischief and actually put it to good use in our adult years. Most of us discarded it as we grew, a few of us even walked the full length of the spectrum and took life too seriously, unfortunately.

But this story is about one who carried his mischief well into adulthood and built his brand around it. We’ve decided to dub him “the ticket snatcher of Kairaba Avenue”  for the sake of anonymity. He is quite well known in the Gambian music industry despite having gone MIA for a few years.

Back in 2011, the FiiLa bar was still operational. It was right opposite the Kairaba Police Station. It was the usual hangout spot, where folks just gathered to kick it and chill. It also used to serve as a ticket and tag distribution center when Open Mic Fest drew close. This was your typical, chilly December night with the crew—food, laughter, and good vibes. There were tickets and tags on the tables waiting to be picked up.

The ticket snatcher of Kairaba Avenue strode casually into FiiLa Bar. If you know him, you would know that he knows how to stir up a room. He was witty and boisterous. I’m sure he still is. This guy, in actuality, had nothing of relevance to say but he succeeded in riling up a fully-fledged ruckus in the bar. And while the commotion was at its peak, he snatched a handful of tickets and tags from the table unnoticed and strode out as casually as he strode in. This was a man who knew the art of mischief and wielded it to serve his purpose. Back in FiiLa bar, befuddled Waagan was left searching in vain for a pile of tickets that were long gone, while the guy who was there to pick them up looked on awkwardly. It would take Waagan 2 years to solve the mystery of the disappeared tickets.

 Back then, the ticket snatcher of Kairaba Avenue went by a different stage name and wasn’t as well known as he was soon to be. Maybe he had wanted to ease his conscience or maybe he thought Waagan would appreciate the humour of the entire incident, but one day, he walked up to Waagan and half-confessed, half-cackled his way through the entire story.

This was his personality—witty, mischievous, naughty, “ngewelleh”, if you may. He was able to translate his personality into his art, and it paid off. He made a mark in The Gambian music industry and found his way beyond. This is to say, perhaps the best way to build your brand is to stay true to who you are; to wield what you already have at your disposal as opposed to attempting to simulate what you perceive to be working for the next person. Perhaps authenticity is the key. Do you not think?

What this certainly is not: an excuse to play tricks on Kotos like Waagan and blame it on your personality—especially if you can’t make it all fun and jokes when you confess later. Ha-ha!

But, seriously, you should always ask yourself if you are representing your true self when you make your art because art will only be truly meaningful if it comes from the center of your being. Otherwise, it would be soulless and without essence. Success without authenticity is short-lived and glitch-ridden.