Freetown’s musical soup

The first episode of the new season of Africa Is a Country Radio, our monthly music show, focuses on the port city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Listen on Worldwide FM and follow us on Mixcloud.

Photo by Random Institute on Unsplash

In our last season of Africa Is a Country Radio, we explored the idea of international blackness with music and interviews on black identity from the United States to Latin America to Europe. It was recorded in conjunction with my work on the INTL BLK platform and featured several friends and collaborators in Los Angeles. After a few months break, we are now back with a new season and a new home, London-based web radio station Worldwide FM.

This season’s theme will take inspiration from Paul Gilroy who suggests that to understand black culture we must look its routes of exchange, rather than its perceived roots of origin, and how hybridity and the navigation of empire have shaped modernity, nationality, and identity in the world today. Our focus will be port cities as connecting nodes in the international network of cultural exchange that is the Black Atlantic. Each month we will take a deeper dive into the music and cultural politics of a different port city on the African continent.

In episode one, we will take a close look at the history and cultural stew that makes up the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Founded in 1792 as a colony for freed former slaves from British North America, and then serving as a site of repatriation for enslaved Africans freed by the British military in the 19th century, as well as serving as the capital of colonial British West Africa, Freetown is a quintessential Black Atlantic city. It also happens to be a place that is close to my own heart, and remains significant in my own identity formation, writing, and cultural production.

In the post-independence period, after experiencing the pangs that come along with the formation of a nation, this hybrid cultural city is now trying to wrestle with its place in the 21st century global economy. With a large diaspora, partially due to an 11 year civil war from 1991-2002, Sierra Leone’s international connections are just as strong as they were at the country’s founding. So in this show we take a look at that history of influences that have come via Freetown, and how that legacy manifests today.

The show features special guests, journalist Mariama Wurie (@mariama.wurie) a Sierra Leonean journalist and creative who reports on cultural happenings for CNN and other outlets, and Benjamin Menelik George, known professionally as Drizilik (@drizilik), one of the most popular artists in Sierra Leone, and a leader in the latest generation of Freetonian musicians.

Tune in on Friday, November 27th from 2pm-4pm Freetown and UK time (9am-11am EST) on the Worldwide FM live feed. If you miss it, visit our show page where the show will be archived. For those of you following us on Mixcloud the shows will continue to be reposted there.

Further Reading