Sierra Leone popular music has served multiple functions.
First, it has served as a source of collective memory. In this regard, it has been both a chronicle of the past and a form of positive reconstruction of that past.
The constant reference to CORRUPTION and INCOMPETENCE in some of our music as a people, is an example of this reconstruction—reliving the past as a lesson for the present and the future.
Some of Emmerson’s lyrics are not just a mirror of society but, more importantly, as an advocate of social and political change.
A good musician is often portrayed as an agent of resistance, affirmation, and nation, who assumes the role of the wise man or woman messenger.-This messenger simultaneously teaches, defends, affirms, reports, interprets, attacks, scolds, and condemns. The messenger’s creativity, then, is inextricably linked to the lived realities of the marginalized masses and their quest for self-definition and progress.
Music also happens to be one of the greatest tools for social evolution.
Sierra Leone has had some good musicians who have, over the decades, brought about great social evolution with story-songs and political messages that have moved hearts and changed minds.
Musicians across the globe are known to use song titles and instrumental melodies to get their social and political messages across.
Great songwriters across the globe continue to tell powerful stories about the everyman/woman who struggles for identity in an increasingly corporatized and homogenized world.
I often wonder, who will be the next Afro national, Sabanoh 75, Salia, Super Combo-Kings etc ?
And why are we not hearing their young voices on the radio or on television today across the country?
Are we truly listening, or are they being blocked out?
Or are we just all-consumed by the dancing icons of our “smartphones,” which seem to be making us less smart and more docile?
Powerful songs have always been the engine behind the greatest social movements — it is the marching soundtrack that unites the people and gives them focus and resolve, and it’s not limited to Sierra leone.
In 1970s Nigeria, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat music as a way to protest the oil company regime of Nigeria. His song “Zombie” became a global hit that railed against Nigeria’s military dictators.
In South Africa, the indigenous Mbatanga music helped bring about the end of apartheid and it spread a message of peace and reconciliation in that nation.
In Chile, Victor Jara wrote songs about his country’s struggles, sparking the Nueva Cancion (New Songs) movement that caused South Americans to rise up against their military dictatorships and replace them with democracies.
In Brazil, the Tropicalia movement was created by songwriters like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and Rita Lee as a form of protest against the Brazilian military junta, which eventually fell from its own corruption and incompetence.
In Australia and New Zealand, popular songs written by indigenous and non-ingenious songwriters sparked an indigenous land reclamation movement that is still active today.
The reason this works is because music gets people thinking, talking, and doing.
“A song is something that we communicate to those people who otherwise would not understand where we are coming from. You could give them a long political speech – they would still not understand. But I tell you: when you finish that song, people will be like ‘Damn, I know where you nigga’s are comin’ from. Death unto Apartheid!” – Sifiso Ntuli
“By attempting to understand the role that music played in the struggle against, and eventual dismantling of the Apartheid government, we can begin to understand the power that music can hold in a political context.”
I cite all these examples because, frankly, we are very worried about the condition of Sierra Leone, and a political system that is rife with corruption, political incompetence, and a rising tide of public apathy.
We all know that tensions have been further aggravated by the failure of the government to provide even basic levels of services i.e water, food,electricity,health,education etc, made worse by systemic corruption and patrimonialism.
The extent of corruption, and the government’s lack of control over it, was demonstrated in April 2013 when President Koroma issued a somewhat warning call to his government officials to sign performance contracts and to do better or face the sack.-
“In keeping with his pledge to run Sierra Leone as a business concern, His Excellency President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma on 31st July signed performance contracts with the heads of thirty-eight public sector institutions, including agencies and tertiary institutions at the Credentials Hall, State House, Freetown.”-State House, Sierra Leone, April 2013.
Today,some of the corrupt kind of men have slithered into the the ranks of State House, and other places of government that we cannot see, or are not allowed to see.
We have an education system that is failing miserably.
Emmerson is not a politician ,but a musician and nobody paid him to sing protest lyrics. Some greedy Sierra Leoneans are now painting Emmerson of being bias.-Are you kidding me?
I keep reading questions like these on the Social-Media Platform (Facebook)-
“How much did SLPP pay Emerson ? We want to know.”
“How much did APC pay Emmerson when he sang ‘Two fut arata, and borbor belleh’?”
Well if you must know, Emmerson has not been paid by any political party but by the patriotic citizens of Sierra Leone who continuously suffer the brunt of corruption, greed,joblessness and illiteracy day-in day-out irrespective of which party is in power.
Emmerson’s song is a true social illustration on both sides of the political divide (APC & SLPP) that have failed the people of Sierra Leone time and time again to make our country takes its rightful place amongst the Best League of Nations in the world today.-Praise singing failed politicians is not the answer.
Was this not the same Emmerson Amidu Bockarie who was awarded The National excellence award on Independence day 27th April 2013 in absentia?-
“It has graciously pleased His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma , President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Supreme Head of State, Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic , Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Fountain Head of Unity, Honor, Freedom and Justice, to make the following awards:…,” A Public Notice from State House,-Sierra Leone April 2013.
Or was it really a ploy to muzzle him into silence? No i hope not.
Infact there is not much difference between many of our politicians today because none has yet learnt the full extent in Sacrifice, Giving and being a Stewart.
You Political-prostitutes, please leave Emmerson alone to do his work.
Emmerson:-Playing the role of The OPPOSITION?
Disgruntled and marginalized, certain people have felt excluded from the political process, may want to use the KOKOBEH lyrics to bring matters to the government and challenge the authority leading figures.
We saw some sections of society were quick to use the lyrics of KOKOBEH by coming up with a Video on Youtube to distort and politicize the image of this artist and its intended message to the general public of Sierra Leone.
But Emmersion was smart enough to dissociate himself from such groups by asking Youtube to PULL-DOWN that video for infringing on his copyright as seen by the image below.
As we all know, there are lots of aliases these days on Social Media,but whoever was responsible for this despicable stunt owes Emmerson an apology for trying to distort the true meaning/message of the song KOKOBEH. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Where were you all along? Why don’t you come-up with your own lyrics and push them all over Youtube and Facebook, rather than capitalizing on the NEW lyrics of this musician to litter your gabbage?
This is uncall for. Apologise to the man my friend.
Emmerson the TRIBALIST?
It is sickening to read some posts on Facebook regarding this KOKOBEH song where some people are calling Emmersion a “tribalist” and they are foolishly going about stoking the seeds of hatred and tribalism to seek inappropriate attention.
We should not encourage anyone to sow the seeds of tribalism in Sierra Leone. Corruption is an aspect of poor governance than necessarily a brainchild of tribalism.
Now let’s take a close look at some of these lyrics: Here Emmerson was simply asking a question:
“Weytin na dis tin ya, you nor go geh woke if you nor to TEMNE man? Weytin na dis tin ya,GREEN kam full with MENDE man??
Oona du lek we educate bo.
Ar bage if you really lek this contri, na for forget bot da oona party-party business.”
You see? He was simply asking a QUESTION to both the APC and the SLPP parties.
All of a sudden we are seeing some people who can’t understand simple KRIO started calling him a “tribalist.”
Take a look around you. Challenge him and prove him wrong on the above assertion.-Stop fooling the masses.
If we are not careful there could be worse times to come for our country. It will exacerbate the deep-rooted inter- and intra-tribal tensions that have defined the political landscape in our country since 2001.
Honestly we have taken democracy for granted and developed nothing to develop further the processes of people transitioning into fully developed democratic processes.
Tribal politics is necessarily undemocratic because of the criteria for membership and the system of leadership. Being a member is always exclusive. This guarantees a population that only they can represent. Leadership is also undemocratic because there is no clear separation of kin status and political status.
I despair for our country when we do not know the value of true democracy.
A lot is required in terms of people education in order to breed a mentality of do it yourself than that of dependence syndrome. People will seek refuge in tribalism when democratic institutions are made to fail as we are currently seeing in Sierra Leone.
If we judge according to need, not want, where opportunities and resources are equally distributed, then the tribe ceases to have a political function, and reverts to a benign state.
We cannot dismiss tribal culture that kept us alive for thousands of years, helped us understand the crazy world around us, and gave us music,oral literature, dance,etc and an identity.
However, we can re-appropriate it and make it work for us, losing our identity will not help us in this century.
Let us keep the baby of cultural pride and throw away the afterbirth of tribalism. Lack of common sense and Insecurity have taken control of many of our brothers from both political parties in Sierra Leone.
Our OPPOSITION Today
In democracy, the opposition has a great role to play.
Opposition parties play a very significant role in a democracy as representatives of the people who have returned them to the House to safeguard their interests.
With this view, they criticize government in case the later ignores them or conceal facts and they resort to protestation in the House and at the public level.
It counts very much for awareness among the people over the specific issues of national importance (i.e the Constitution, Law and Order, Health, Education, The budget Speech, The auditor General’s Report, Corruption,Labour Laws,Unemployment, Immigration, Electricity,Taxation, etc) and raises levels of political consciousness among them.
But as we are seeing now in Sierra Leone, do we seriously have an opposition? Huh?? Give me a break. -(Sierra Leone: democracy without opposition)
The opposition should act as watch dog’ of the system. The Opposition party forms a ‘shadow cabinet’ to exercise vigil over the performance of the government.
Arbitrary and despotic behaviour of the government is checked by a serious Opposition party demanding information and debate in the House.
The opposition in Sierra Leone is not even aware how important their role is in the country.
It is THE Opposition that has a very important role of check and balance in the larger public interest and correct democratic practices.
But all we have here in Sierra Leone are a bunch of people parading in the corridors of Freetown purporting to speak for the people that voted them in parliament.
Infact some appear to think that their role in opposition is to play the role of ‘enemy’ of the government. -What a sick joke.
You are currently making a mockery of our democracy.
Stop the infighting and try to put your house in order. You have a very important role to play in this country.
Only a serious opposition can save democracy.
It is perhaps the crudity of the manner we play the game of politics here in Sierra Leone which prevents us from understanding that politics is really just a game of means and approaches, which cannot make the player see his or her opponent as an enemy.
If we examine Britain, Sweden or the United States, for example, we would pleasantly find that the national objectives of the advancement of the country – the betterment of the lives of the citizens and the protection of lives and property – never change irrespective of it is the Labour or Conservative Party (in Britain), Social Demokraterna or Modaraterna (in Sweden) or the Democrats or the Republicans (in the USA). The only difference would be their approaches to achieving these national objectives.
Rather than taking the stand that the government is an enemy, the opposition party needs to play the true part of the opposition.
Plato has rightly said, “The punishment of wise man who refuse to take part in the affairs of the government, is to live under the government of unwise men.”
Are our musicians taking the role of the opposition now? I don’t think so.
Finally,our perceptions as leaders or even as people to opposition as a concept need elevation so we can acknowledge tolerance to handling disagreements in politics at all times.
We need to develop our systems and institutions in order to accept demonstrations from people who wish to express views against what they do not want and not to look at them as a negative process which needs to be resisted and punished by those in government.
Probably, we need a people’s Music revolution to change things for the better. Our fore-fathers (Bai-Bureh, Kai-Londo, Lamina Sankoh et-al) would be screaming for it, were they alive today.
We should be looking for the next wave of musicians, songwriters, and artists to show us the way. Have the courage to stand up and sing it, write it, speak it. We are waiting, listening for your voices.
Long Live Sierra Leone
Wish you all a prosperous 2014
A.Sesay (Zaki) -ThisIsSierraLeone