Marco Koroma takes the wheel for this journey with a guest feature article on the zeitgeist of the Sierra Leone music scene.
The influence of art in the Sierra Leonean society is undeniable. From the hit songs that outline the “maps” in December to the kontri klos that offers the pride of nativity, the arts have always shaped and reflected, the Sierra Leonean society. But, ironically, in Sierra Leone, and in most African countries, this crucial piece of society’s fabric is reserved for those who could not “make it” in life.
In 2018, Sierra Leonean Afro-Rap artiste, Drizilik, released his much-anticipated project, Shukubly. In the opening track, also titled Shukubly, is a prologue to a project that reflects the beauty and struggles of the Sierra Leonean society (let’s keep this for another blog post), and on its own is a beautifully crafted manifesto by a true SaLone artist.
The fine and performing arts have always served as an outlet for many, and our society appreciates it as long it is “on the side” or a hobby, being a full-time artist anywhere is tough, but the devaluing of Art in Sierra Leone has eroded the pride that comes with being an artist.
Drizilik confronts this notion by opening Shukubly, both song and project, with a declaration. A declaration by an artist who has dedicated time to harnessing his skills and mastering his craft, and he is aware that he treads the road not taken; an artiste with a vision and a purpose.
“A tek dis tin sirios ivin if na fun to all
A suppose for de hammer a nor bon for fall
ivin if success nor return mi call
If A ever turn back a go turn to salt”
These bars are repeated on “Aw Ar Lef Os”, making it clear that they are thought out and repeated to let his audience and fellow artists know that even though some may consider this “thing” a joke, he is dedicated to and passionate about his craft. Drizilik goes a step further to make known his intention to succeed, and he compares quitting to the catastrophe that befell Lot’s wife.
“Noto pan boku tok
Yu fil se na fulish fo le man dem rich dis far”
In a time where mediocrity abounds, few have gone against the grain to put in the required effort to achieve their goals, but when your goals don’t align with the norm you’re ostracized and considered foolish, by both the mediocre and exceptional, for putting so much effort into a lowly craft.
Two sold-out shows, an international tour, and endorsements by corporations, will we still consider Benjamin George foolish for pursuing his dreams? Some may only see the current shine and ignore the zeal and zest it takes to gain acclaim in any field, the art being no different.
“Hustle for the paper so we earn inna the shukubly”
Remuneration is an integral part of the equation. The need for money cannot be overemphasised. Sierra Leoneans may enjoy and love art, but the culture of paying for art is not encouraged. Most artists have been stifled by the need for a sustainable income, yet some have found the balance; maintaining a 9-5 whilst being a full-time artist (shout out to Prodigy, Freetown’s Finest). Creating sublime content is expensive, and passion and zeal can only take an entrepreneur so far. Drizilik in this manifesto makes it crystal clear that his art is his hustle, and he should earn from it, so should every artist producing standard content.
“Sky-rising lekke sun inna the shukubly
Watch you neba noto fun inna the shukubly
Kukujumuku wi de ban inna the shukubly
Help you brother if you can inna the shukubly”
In Sierra Leone, the phenomenon of giving back to society is neither propagated nor appreciated. Drizilik recognises his success and that of some of his peers, so he implores artists and audiences in the shukubly to give a helping hand as they make their ascent to success.
Collaborations are also a medium of giving back or lending a helping hand, yet they are so underrated in our contemporary; we need more artists from diverse fields collaborating to give us a blend we cannot fathom. I hope this means we will see more collaborations from Ben 10 over 10.
“Ben 10 over 10 na di shukubly
If yu look inside me heart na di shukubly”
I believe the shukubly is a metaphor for many things, but my favourite is SaLone. Over the years many Sierra Leoneans have left for greener pastures, but only a handful have returned to make good the diabolic system that forced them out. But, if home is where the heart is then Sierra Leone is where Drizilik’s heart is. Like every human, his instincts may lead him to search for fertile ground, but he assures us that his heart will lead him home:
“Wi go go bɔt wi always kam bak/Leke se wi fɔget sɔmtin na di shukubly”
Sierra Leoneans are no strangers to manifestos, but we are yet to witness a manifesto upheld and its promises fulfilled (shout out to the red lorry and the green lorry). As a fan, I appreciate Drizilik’s sincerity on Shukubly, but being a luminary to a generation with no genuine hero his word is dear, and the expectation might be overwhelming. As an artist, I consider this manifesto a challenge to improve and elevates the standards of the arts.
So in whichever corner of the shukubly, you find yourself –
“One time for your mind na di shukubly”
Written by Marco Koroma
-Marco Koroma is a content developer and an art curator.
Check out PoyoPapi (@Marco_Krm): https://twitter.com/Marco_Krm?s=08