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Musician of the Week: Amie Kallon

9 March 2017 at 02:12 | 2512 views

PV Staff

In Sierra Leone, what is known as traditional music or folk music is not generally considered marketable music and is therefore seldom recorded and packaged as an important product for the music industry. Traditional musicians do not make a lot of money since their music is generally not recorded or sold in huge quantities. They usually ply their trade during public holidays and festivals in the rural areas of the country. That’s the time they get some income from fans and admirers who would throw cash at them to show their appreciation. Many work full time as farmers and small business owners. Music is thus a part time occupation for many of them. Government assistance in terms of showcasing their talents to tourists and having their music recorded and distributed is not yet apparent but there is some talk about it in government circles.

You can hardly find traditional music in the music stores around the country. What you can easily find are various samples of modern Salone (Sierra Leone) music by many of the younger generation of Sierra Leonean musicians who are in most cases heavily influenced by Western hip-hop (USA) and reggae sounds from Jamaica. 50 Cents, Tupac, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Joseph Hill and many others are well known here. Most of today’s musicians grew up listening to them.

Also these "modern" Sierra Leonean musicians have abandoned traditional musical instruments for modern Western instruments thus producing musical sounds quite different from the traditional Sierra Leonean instruments. There are some exceptions though; some younger musicians still use local instruments and some combine both Western and traditional instruments like Janka Nabay (now living in the United States) and home-based Bobby.

Our musician this week is Amie Kallon, a traditional folk singer and cultural icon. She comes from the Mende ethnic group, one of the largest ethnic groups in the country (predominantly living in the south and east of the country). She is perhaps the most well known female Mende singer. She sings exclusively in Mende but has fans from all over the country.

Amie rose to prominence in the 80s although she has been singing long before that time. She has inspired many of the younger Mende musicians both male and female.

Here is Amie Kallon: