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Sierra Leone Entertainment: DR. OLOH – AFROPOP AND JAZZ MUSIC PIONEER

Sierra Leone king of afropop and jazz music, Dr. Oloh was born on the 20th March 1944 in Freetown to a Nigerian mother and a Creole father. Israel Olorunfeh Cole aka Dr. Oloh was the founder and leader of the band known as Milo Jazz. He is widely recognised as one of the biggest musicians from Sierra Leone, with popular hit songs like ‘Cobbah Me’, ‘Yawo Mammy’, ‘Aleluyah Tumbay’, ‘Ajuba’, etc,  in the 1980s and early 1990s. During the transfer of power from the late Siaka Stevens to J.S. Momoh, he composed one of his most famous songs: ‘Momoh nor worry’:

‘Na udat gee Momoh power?

Na God!

Momoh sidon saful den take power den gee am Momoh-ay!

Wata wae nar for you, nor go run pass you-oh.’

“He played an innovative and infectious trademark brand of Palm Wine music, known as Milo Jazz, a hot jumpy version of Gumbay Music. Milo Jazz music originated from collecting empty Milo malt drink cans, and filling them with stones. Friction between the cans or empty bottles produced mesmerizing, soulful percussion music. This hallmarked the genesis of a novel kind of street music that modernized the existing Gumbay or Maringa brand of music. Dr. Oloh probably got his tutelage from the famous king of Gumbay and Maringa music Ebenezer Calendar who was the son of a Barbadorian soldier who had introduced street music in Sierra Leone. Dr. Oloh had admired the master musician – Dr. Dynamite (Masokoloko) during his guitar playing sessions but Dr. Oloh was more determined than ever to introduce his own brand of music. The West Indies was the Mecca of calypso, Maringa or Gumbay music.” “…His Milo jazz band constituted tempo bass drum, mouth organ or harmonica, bass drum, triangles, tenor drum, cans, and bottles. He was the lead vocalist in the band, backed by male voices. His lyrics were bold and fearless, sometimes as vulgar as they were sensuous, while he addressed the issues of street life, sexual attraction, marriage and political issues that ordinary people experience daily.”

~ Roland Bankole Marke

His band toured the UK and recorded several sessions for the BBC Radio (for Peel Session – John Peel and Andy Kershaw). Dr. Oloh was awarded the OR (Order of Rokel) medal by the Sierra Leone Government in 1989.

His band was made up of the following persons:

Mohamed Dean – (tempo bass drum, backing vocals), Mohamed Kamara – (bass drums, backing vocals), Abdul Bangura – (bass drums and backing vocals), Sineh Konika – (lead drums), Brima Kamara – (tenor drums), Alie Kamara – (triangles, backing vocals), and Dr. Oloh – (lead vocals). Dr. Oloh died on the 13th October, 2007 after a short illness in Freetown. He will be remembered as the king of gumbay, milo jazz and afropop in Sierra Leone.

Friday May 3, 2019.

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