This, the final music break before Africa is a Country takes a month-long break itself, is inspired by the rise of two artists on the international pop scene: Blood Orange and Sampha. They are two London-raised artists with Sierra Leonean roots, currently making waves on both sides of the Atlantic. When checking out New York City-based music and culture magazine The Fader recently, I noticed it featured Sampha on the cover of the latest issue, and touted Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound as “Xanax for these jittery days.” These news items appeared alongside a feature on my own ocean-spanning Sierra Leonean project the Kondi Band. So in celebration of this serendipitous occasion, I present to you a playlist (hit play below, sit back and enjoy!) of up and coming international artists that you may or may not have realized have roots in the tiny West African country of Sierra Leone.
1) Berlin-based Lamin Fofana opens us up with a blessing from his Sci-fi and Fantasy released First Symphony EP. 2) Up next is Blood Orange’s 80s flavored, New York featuring video for “Augustine” 3) Singer, songwriter, and pianist Sampha performs live in the BBC Radio One studio. 4) German reggae superstar Patrice has Sierra Leonean roots, and draws a direct cultural line between Sierra Leone and Jamaica. 5) Forget de diamond, today Sierra Leone’s proudest export (one we share with Ghana) has to be the one Idris Elba. Here he is teaming up with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for “Dance Off.” 6) A couple years back when I got connected to Young Fathers’ Alloysious Massaquoi via email, I couldn’t help but notice his familiar and common Sierra Leonean last name. It turns out that while his official bio states that he moved from Liberia to Scotland as a child, in fact, his father moved to Liberia from Sierra Leone (and our fathers were classmates in school!). So, welcome home to Sierra Leone Ally! 7) Detroit-based blues rock singer Mayaeni recently signed to Roc Nation management, and in celebration released the above video for “Million n’1.” 8) David Moinina Sengeh has been featured in the Music Break before, but I couldn’t leave this Boston-based multi-talented Sierra Leonean artist out of this special edition! 9) World Music artist Seydu spent many years living in Spain, where I came across his music at a local record store years ago. I believe he has since relocated back to Freetown, and his recent musical output has been a celebration of that homecoming. 10) And lastly, Fela! the musical was a huge success across the world, but maybe not everyone knows about the Sierra Leonean roots of the person portraying the musical’s chief protagonist, Mr. Sahr Ngaujah.
And one last HBO-style cliffhanger bonus clip to leave you this August break. Check out this intense trailer for “Flowers”, a new short film partnership between Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu and Yvonne Shirley!