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Tego Calderon’s Sierra Leone Visit

29 August 2006 at 23:35 | 1033 views

29 August 2006
EFE News Service
By Jorge J. Muńiz Ortiz.

San Juan, Aug 26 (EFE).- Puerto Rican reggaeton star Tego Calderon(photo) says he can’t get sights from his recent trip to Africa out of his head, a journey he said began with good intentions but became all but futile in an atmosphere that varied between "hell" and "a circus."

The singer, who presented here Tuesday his new album "The Underdog/El Subestimado," described life in Sierra Leone as "abominable."

"I’ve seen hard places to live. But I tell you, that (Sierra Leone) is the closest thing there is to hell. Seeing kids living alongside pigs, garbage all over the place. It’s a denigrating way for a human being to live," he told EFE.
The star of the Caribbean genre that blends Latino rhythms with reggae and hip-hop went to West Africa with rappers Paul Wall and Raekwon for the filming of a documentary called "Bling: A Planet Rock."

Produced by VH1 in association with the United Nations Development Program, the film describes connections between the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone and the musical culture of young people in the developed and developing world.

It suggests, among other things, that some of the gems favored by rappers and other stars of the urban music scene inevitably are "conflict diamonds."

Control of the diamond trade has been a factor in several civil conflicts in West Africa in recent years.

Calderon visited victims of the warfare, including people who had limbs amputated in the terror campaigns of the competing irregular armies. He spoke with women who were kidnapped and raped by the fighters, and diamond hunters who spend six months sifting dirt through a colander in search of a gemstone without finding a single one.
"Our intentions were good. But they went by the wayside, because (at one point) we had the devil himself in front of us, the conflict-diamond chief, and the people from the U.N. tell us we have to get a release to film him. It became a circus," he said.

He described Freetown, the Sierra Leone capital, as "a city left to its own devices, full of garbage and terrible."
The singer said, though, that the trip certainly made him appreciate what he has.

"No matter how bad things might get, I have to consider myself privileged and lucky to have been born where I was, that my kids have food on the table and a roof over their heads," he said.

He saluted his own father, Esteban Calderon, whom he described as "a very humble person."

"Everything good about me comes from my father. He is my hero."

The new album includes appearances by Don Omar, Yandel, Eddie Dee, Voltio, Zion and Chinonino.
Of future projects, Calderon said he would like to perform or record with Ziggy Marley or other children of the late Jamaican icon Bob Marley, and with Panamanian salsa star Ruben Blades. EFE