“Why make na Salone normoh di young noh di grow? Why make na Salone normoh education noh dey grow? How di internet slow na so we slow, any wan dem gi wi, wi say oh” ~ ‘Questions’, Home and Away by Emmerson
“Ah dey yeri say dah 5 year suffer noh do for we again, we don super mature dem wan add two more iya dey” ~ ‘Kokobeh’
Its really hard to just make music in Sierra Leone. You know a music that doesn’t have any meaning. Music that’s just a good beat. Yes its really hard for musicians to do that. When you live in the thick of things, in the everyday of life and suffering, its really hard to just sing, and make merry.
Sierra Leone is a very difficult place for young people especially to live. The one industry that has been a consistent source of support, and dominated by youth has been the post war music scene. Many of our best musicians were pushed to music because of a lack of opportunity elsewhere. Since the end of the war we’ve had lots of good one hit wonders, but only a few of the artists have been able to continuously produce, and make relevant music, and hits. And of those, one artist stands apart, and that artist is Emmerson.
Emmerson is to Sierra Leone music what Aminata Forna is to literature. Thier art reflects the truths of a country and a people still struggling to overcome, and often times failing to do so.
‘Home and Away’ is Emmerson’s 4th studio album, and as usual it is as much a dance album as it is that of love. Even the songs of protest like ‘Kokobeh’, ‘Green Paper‘, ‘Who Go Be‘, and ‘Questions’, are of love. Why else would one risk so much to speak these truths if not for the sake of love? In just a week of its release the album has sold an unprecedented 28,000 copies according to Salone Jamboree.
Within just days of the album’s release supporters of the government have called for a boycott. These truths are uncomfortable for them. They are so uncomfortable that the APC government’s diaspora propaganda machine run by Ambassador Kabbs Kanu has published a 3 article special feature. In the feature Emmerson is called many names including a “mercenary pop singer”. They even go further to say that he has been bribed to make the song by the opposition SLPP party. They say because he is Mende, he and other Mendes want the downfall of this government so they have all abandoned Christianity to be ritualists.
The album has 14 songs, and I have played them over, and over again. I have not heard the anti temne anthems, or tribalism. What I have heard however recurring in each song is love. This is the soundtrack of the broken hearted. Those of us whose hearts have been broken by non existent change and too much of the same. There is not a neighbourhood in Freetown, or a town upcountry where you will not find people like us. Those who were hopeful in 2007, and now feel disheartened.
As you no doubt will quickly learn to sing the words of these songs, you can kind solace on the dance floor, using the rhythms to drown out the truth.
Emmerson is the voice of the under class, the voice of the oppressed, whether they like it or not. Home and Away is one part protest, and too parts love.