At a time when worry is abound and families are closely knitted in a body determine to fend off the human-annihilating coronavirus, Cess found us space for an elaborate insight into her life and music journey.
One of those celebrities you could count on and whose doors are widely flung open at request of an interview no matter the hour, Francess Ngom –her full name –eagerly reeled off the answers to the blizzard of questions we hurled her way some of them even if they could be perceived intruding.
Daughter to the legendary Abdel Kadir Ngom, her crossing of paths with music was inevitable considering her background. However, inspiration to cut her teeth in the trade came from a friend whom she shared adolescent years with –the late Pa Modou Jammeh, MJ for short, the man whose musical works are still felt to this day, twelve years since his demise.
“He produced and recorded my very first song which was a tribute to him. So my first official record was made about 12 years ago, but it was only about 4 years that I had music as a full on career and took it seriously,” she said.
“Ganeh Si” was my first release followed by “Duma la Bayi” then the ladies rhythm “Dream Boy.”
The latter, whose opening stanza she did, in a lineup of about a dozen singers, set her off for fame.
“I must say Nova Sambou both as a producer and artist contributed a lot to my art. The ladies rhythm was pretty much a celebration of Gambian female artists and their voices.
“I woke up one morning and got a call from Nova saying he wants me to be part of it. I went over to the studio and recorded. I think it took us about an hour. After the release, I must say the massive response it received was impressive,” she said.
Cess wouldn’t have been tagged today as Gambia’s queen of music if every doctor’s assessment of a patient were spot-on.
She was about three years old in Finland when she had her vocal chords operated on, in which the doctor’s interpretation of her case meant she may never be able to sing if she were ever to take up music.
“It was all due to the advice given to my parents during an operation in Finland when I was about 3 years old. The operation had to do with my throat, as in my vocal chords and my dad was on tour in Europe at the time.
“So the said doctor, who was a fan of his told him that in case I grew up and wanted to be an artist, it would be almost impossible because of the said operation which was why I did music having it at the back of my head that I couldn’t be taken seriously. I however had the necessary tests and scans and have officially been cleared,” Cess ventures, opening up on a chapter in her life occurring thirty years ago, the reason for her initial laidback attitude towards singing or intermittent halting in the game.
In a day and age where social media is not merely an obsession but commands a huge following, artistes outshine one another for viewership and, as a consequence lean towards desperate attention-seeking, going to lengths of washing dirty linens to the public domain which the local press pick as juicy bits for news buzz.
Cess is a shrinking violet – a character miles apart from her boisterous on-stage persona -and rather strangely perfectly manages to get rovelling lenses of the press off her back.
“I am a very private person especially regarding my private life and that of my kids, generally. What’s music these days without social media though? Therefore, I release and promote the music and videos, connect with my friends and fans as much as I possibly can but never to a point where I personally expose my privacy,” the mother-of-two frankly said.
In a Gambian ecosystem dictated by societal values and religion, most female Gambian singers have had to cease music once they’re married owing largely to family or husband influence – a belief fuelled by the archaic notion that the industry is ridden with promiscuity and other forms of immorality.
When Cess entered that phase of life –marriage – most feared for her. However, that wasn’t to be her portion.
“My previous marriage did not hold back my career. My ex-husband was very supportive as far as the music was concerned and I’m appreciative of that. That’s all I have to say to that.
“It’s a difficult one to deal with. Marriage in itself is “hard” but I believe it all depends on how you control it. There has to be some mutual understanding to make it work,” she said.
Soon, kids flowed in to blesse her matrimony. And there was this part of multi-tasking she required dealing with –balancing motherhood and music.
She continued: “Juggling motherhood and music is not easy. Let’s start there. But it’s very possible. What makes it easy for me is that my kids are currently 11 and 7. Also their love for music surpasses mine. They actually sing way better than me.
“So as long as I have my studio/writing/video sessions rightly scheduled, all I have to rightly do is make sure that it doesn’t interfere with their school first of all and secondly with my quality time with them. I try to spend all of my free time, literally all of it, with my little Prince and Princess.”
A couple of female celebrities have, in a lot of tell-all interviews, confessed to being pulled in both directions where managing motherhood, career and keeping a healthy eating habit to remain in shape, comes to play.
For Francess, dancing, hitting the gym or following a homemade workout regimen flips the magic.
“I dance a lot and tried hitting the gym several times actually but let’s just say that didn’t work, so I do regular home work-outs, you know squats and the like. And, I have no strict diet rule or anything of the sort. I just eat what I can eat and when I can eat it.”
A Career Comeback with Force
Unlike her colleagues in the game, Cess is a diploma holder in management studies upon transitioning from Nursery to high school at Ndows Comprehensive and worked once with Gambia’s social security prior to her entry to music.
In music career spanning twelve years ago, she had had hit songs prominent among them being Rewi Gambia a track sound released in 2011 and is aired at national events including election periods.
Her trade actually took off enormously between 2015, 2016 and 2017 during which Bulma Saganeh, Love Bu Nekh among others debuted before taking a 12 months sabbatical the entirety of 2018.
“Let’s just say I took a step back searching for the right answers to questions I had in my head. I needed a break to think through everything,” she explained.
The ensuing year let off a much vibrant Cess especially at tail end of 2019. Done With You was composed as her first song that term. The titled it was thought was the diva letting out some steam considering she was divorced around this time.
However, the ace insists it was one of those relatable vibes witout a hidden agenda. This was followed by Love Like Fire a splendid art work of video beauty last December courting over 13,000 views. This progress was built on with the outing of Don’t Give Up and Jegeh Sima. The latter, a collabo piece with Senegal’s prince of Mbalax Wally Seck has smashed 370,000 views, a career high in a career comeback that now appears cut out for a never-ceasing upward trajectory.
Responses to her vibes were overwhelming. During these moments Fracess has been compiling for an album, her first in over a decade.
Pencha Mi Hall hosted the event just before the campaign for coronavirus then yet to be declared a pandemic, intensified. Performances that day overshadowed whatever impact the low turn may have had. Thrill filled with varying dance exhibitions, fans were treated to a cocktail of ambiance.
“First of all Alhamdullilah for being able to sing and compile enough songs and release my debut album. It was by far the best night of my life. I couldn’t be more proud of myself and my entire team. The launch as in the event itself, went exactly as expected. All that hard work during rehearsals paid off.
“Being my first ever paid for event, I couldn’t be happier about the turnout. It was scheduled on a night when other events were scheduled and that may have contributed but hey, we thank Allah because i had our family, my closest friends and a group of hardcore fans who danced their way through the night! It was absolutely amazing!! No regrets at all and besides it was just the first. There are many shows to come insha’Allah. Quitting is not a way for a Diva.
“The low turnout was simply because Allah willed so. It was his decision, those who came came and I sang my heart out on stage and like I said earlier, the dearest people to me were present and my fans went home happy. It’s all I truly want as an entertainer,” she dwelled on.
This Interview won’t have been complete if the trending fear-instilling coronavirus isn’t harped on.
The virus has more than committed genocide on mankind with deaths soaring each day aside from the alarmingly increasing over 300,000 recorded infections. Declaration of a public health state of emergency by the Barrow government shows seriousness by which the ailment operates.
Cess and family, like others, are observing total isolation. Asked how she is surviving it, the reply was direct but embedded with humour.
“I try to remain as sanitized as I possibly can if that answers that… My kids and I are in total isolation at the moment, we try to keep our hands as clean as possible and just pray to Allah that the pandemic goes away soon. As for handshakes and hugs, Hana handshakes and hugs emojis from fans and friends deh over the phone. (laughs) fenn laa demut. In other words it’s better to stay safe at these times.
“I would just like to thank you for having me on this interview. I enjoyed it and would like to commend you for your skills, it was a good one.
“Lastly, i would like to extend my love and prayers to everyone around me and around the world during these very trying times. May Allah safe us all from the Corona virus. Thank you.”