The cultural sector of Chad is perhaps one of the least supported and promoted sectors by the public. Development efforts toward this sector are not highly visible and many aspects of the cultural sector suffer from a lack of guidance and support structures.
The music sector in Chad: 1960-1980
The music sector in Chad experienced a brief moment of popularity between 1960-1980 and the beginning of 1990’s. The most glorious days were, however, under the reign of the first President, Ngarta Tombalbaye.
A few bands and musicians embodied the national Chadian music scene, such as Chari Jazz, Africa Mélodie, Mama Eldjima, Abakar Chikito, Pécos Ahmad, Moussa Chauffeur, Tibesti, Clément Masdongar, Chalal International of Maitre Gazonga, Dounia Danpeuret, Talino Manu who were the leaders of Chadian music between 1960 and 1990. The Star Jazz orchestra, which later became Chari Jazz, a name given by President Tombalbaye, was the first Chadian band. Chari Jazz became the national orchestra during this period.
Few albums were released in the 1980s and in hindsight, it appears there was a lack of Chadian music.
Today, a new generation of Chadian musicians have emerged. They are led by artists and the initiatives of Chadian cultural operators who organise music festivals and platforms for meetings and exchanges. They facilitate distribution, production and promotion networks and often produce and promote their own music. It must be noted, however, that the music industry in Chad is new and still in its infancy. The main challenges facing it are the poor organization of the sector.
With the exception of a few recording studios such as the Studio Electron Tchad, Studio D&G, etc, other components are slow to put in place. Note that until proof to the contrary, the first recorded discs in Chad, with the exception of the sound recordings during the colonial era, are the albums stored outside of the country. For example, the album Les Jaloux Saboteurs was initially recorded in 1984 by Maitre Gazonga at the JBZ Recording studios in Abidjan (Ivory Coast).
Mariam of Clément Masdongara recorded at the Kilimanjaro International Records – Washington DC/Paris. Artists had to go to neighbouring countries like Cameroon and Nigeria to record. And some even went to France, Burkina Faso or Ivory Coast.
“The enthusiasm and commitment to success of Pyramydes are penalized by the precariousness of the music industry. And yet the country has hundreds and hundreds of hip-hop, African inspired or world groups. But there are only two studios for the whole of the territory: one in Sar in the south, owned by Father Fabricio; and the Electron Chad in N’Djamena. Few streets have a concert hall, and most are situated in the capital.”
In the article quoted above, Solo Soro described the conditions of the music industry in Chad well. There have been a few significant improvements such as the emergence of recording studios, production houses, music festivals (traditional and modern). Cultural spaces have been renovated. But the search for innovation and greener pastures has led many artists to explore other avenues.
Recording labels in Chad
“The emergence of recording studios from 2000 appears as an important indicator showing growth of the music scene in N’Djamena. It is difficult to determine to any degree of certainty the number of studios since the owners of these establishments, for fear of paying taxes, work from home.”
It also appears that “Chad has no manufacturing structure for the reproduction of cassettes or CDs. Artists either turn to neighbouring Cameroon or they go to Nigeria. This implies additional customs costs.”
For example, the albums of artists like Didier Lalaye (Croquemort), Célestin Mawndoé, Papa Terra, Sultan, Degospa Franck, late Diégo Maestro of Tibesti band, are partially or fully registered between Cameroon, Ivory Coast or France.
“Determination, friendships or the support of the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France keep us afloat. We organize our shows, tours and a good part of our distribution ourselves. In 2004, we produced Soleil d’Afrique, our first album which reached the top of the charts.” These comments from the Pyramide group are full of hope and strongly reflect how the recording industry in Chad works.
Chadian artists (producers, distributors and promoters) have been the driving force of the recording industry. Today, a few individuals or close friends of artists are setting up production houses and recording studios across the country. And although mobile telephony is also opening new opportunities, these are not well channelled.
Music distribution platforms
Chad shares borders with Nigeria and Niger (West Africa), Cameroon and the Central African Republic, Libya and Sudan (North Africa). The music and rhythms are influenced by this diversity. However, modern music is strongly influenced by Sudanese and Congolese music. Chari Jazz, Africa Mélodie, Maitre Gazonga amongst others have succumbed to the Congolese rumba. Today, new artists with their own style and rhythms inspired by the Chadian repertoire, have emerged.
There is no real sales channel. There are platforms such as the N’Djamvi Festival of Music, Fest’Africa, the Royaume Culturel de Soubyanna, the Temple de Chari Jazz, the French Institute of Chad, the Maison de Quartier de Chagoua, the Don Bosco center, Talino Manu de Moursal and The Festival Neige au Sahel.
There are also houses of culture that form a small circuit of distribution. And, with the advent of the Internet, piracy is now a concern. In conclusion, apart from the dilemma facing the Chadian Copyrights Office, a lot more needs to be done for the Chadian recording industry to flourish.