Hot on the heels of the November 17 elections, politicians with their fanatic and sycophantic
supporters are blowing vuvuzelas on trabalism, giving a picture that is very far from reality in our
On the other hand some Sierra Leonean musicians are not really
singing on ethnic tickets. We have seen artists, especially protest ones like Emmerson, Innocent,
Wahid, Obelisk Crew, and Daddy (Diamond) Saj actually attacking the rottenness of systems
without making direct references to particular players. The interesting thing is that it is most
times the government of the day that takes offence. In Pa Kabbah’s time, we had songs like
Bobor beleh, Two foot Arata and then in Pa Koroma’s time we got Yesterday Betteh Pass
Tiday? You remember the music that sent a former ruling party to the wilderness? Yes you
remember the celebrated Gee dem Notice?
Well this time around the music that has been making a lot of noise in Bo and Kenema and now has invaded the Freetown music scene is Bobby’s Album Feli, which in English means poverty. This review will look at three of the most popular tracks Feli (Poverty), Kpei (Debt) and Orsai.
In Freetown very little is known about the Artist Bobby although his music was done at the LP Studio in the heart of Freetown, Soldier Street. This is of course very usual that the music popularises the artist rather than the other way round.
The first track on the Album is Feli, a Mende word for Poverty. Of course poverty is no knew topic for musicians, Bow Wow Society and Pupa Baja, some years back sang about poverty and literally fought that ménage and drove it out of the country.
But of course we know that poverty is around, never mind the PRSP1 and PRS2 (Agenda for Change). You see poverty seems to be surviving every Government we get in Sierra Leone. So Bobby’s Feli is still very much relevant.
His approach to the topic is however from a personal and family perspective. A poor man does not over-sleep; he gets up very early in the morning to hit the ‘dregging’ streets. Bobby even blames the poor state of Dama road in Kenema to poverty and disunity. Of course Kenema has a perennial problem of one of the worst set of roads in both the township and outlying areas. Poverty makes young people migrate to urban areas but that in itself is not a guarantee for poverty reduction.
Bobby according to his music has travelled to guinea, Liberia and back but he is still not rich. In other words migration does not necessarily improve young people. Freetown migrant youth should take note of this. Poverty even causes separation between families.
When you go out searching for greener pasture and never get hit it big. This reminds me of artisanal diamond diggers in the hay days of the diamond trade in this country. A diamond digger will live his family and go in search of the gem and hardly goes back to the family unless he hits big. By that time the family had disintegrated because of poverty. The topic of poverty is indeed very relevant as we face another election. For a country that we are told is 150% donor dependent, our artists should not be ashamed of singing about the ills of poverty. A poor man cannot even provide decent underwear to cover the area he so much cherishes. Yes bobby goes quite deep and personal in this song.
A very interesting political song on the album is the one titled ‘orsai’ which serves as the chorus. Interestingly this was part of the APC’s slogan for the 2007 elections Orsai- orwai, which I understand means hot and cold that means blowing hot and cold. When it gets hot, it will get cold again. It is like saying that heat and cold are actually two sides of the same coin. Now Bobby approaches the issue with a comically sarcastic viewpoint, without actually meaning to hurt any part of the political divide. What comes out clearly from the track is this idea of opportunity lost and the fact that one needs to condescend or compromise just so as peace prevails.
The dynamics of the 2007 votes per districts are clear indicators of the almost fixed so-called political party strongholds. According to the song, in Kenema, nar yuba barb yuba and in kailahun wata pass gari. Let us pause and analyse a bit. We all know that these two districts exhibit a lot of pro SLPP sentiments. But the music, far from blowing this out, uses idioms or what we call parable in local parlance. Wata pass gari means votes were overwhelming and in Kenema Yuba barb yuba.
I am yet to quite piece this out, but what appears obvious also is that in that place it was more or less a case of no case. This issue of barbing demand s some cooperation for the process to go through successfully. On the other hand it could be done forcefully, in which case some head wounding is sure to happen.
The rest is actually left to you to conclude. You see Bobby sings so much with a tongue in the cheek. He says the SLPP and the APC have entered the house like ngoneh and puusie.
In Mende language these two names refer to the same animal and that is the cat. Is this pointing to the fact that perhaps these two parties are two sides of the same coin? Can this be true? Well somehow yes if you consider that there are politicians who have served on both parties at one point or the other in our History! Bobby further says that PMDC is in the parlour waiting. This could be referring to the role PMDC played at the 2007 run-off which most people think actually greatly helped to give the APC her victory.
There are insinuations that need artistic dissecting. Like bobby says you cannot fight the World. Yes this is true but in our case here in Salone what is bobby singing about? Perhaps it could also be re-echoing what a lot of Sierra Leoneans have come to believe that rightly or wrongly, it is the presidential candidate that the International community favors, that really ends up winning. Well where this is also doubtful is because people vote and the results of the votes determine the winner. Well, it’s food for thought.
I must say the most popular track on the album that is shaking Freetown is Kpei or tross or loan. It’s a funny track with truth and reality. A person that goes to take a loan will never use had words but sugar coated once delivered in the most pleasant way. Especially people who go to take things on credit always sound quite intelligent, light those who drink alcohol and other intoxicants on credit. Bobby says when they meet the person selling and straight away start praising her or the child, indeed they want additional loan. Their pattern goes like this: Oh this child is growing very fine. This really resembles the father and in fact he will walk very soon.
These are kind words that make the owe monger get his or her way. Man if you listen to the lyrics of this song you won’t help laughing your heart out. Now tell me is there anybody in this 21st century global village that does not owe somebody somewhere? You can put your hand up! I think it is no more shame to owe somebody, after all our government has always been the chief owe monger since independence.
I say so because we are 150 % donor dependent. Do you see how we are struggling to fill the donor shortfall in our elections budget? Oho I see you are getting the point. Try dancing to Kpei, then you will understand.