Freetown, Baby!


Independence Day by jc2010sl
April 29, 2010, 3:10 pm
Filed under: photos, public life | Tags: ,

On 27th April 1961, Sierra Leone gained independence from the UK. As you’d expect, the anniversary is a day marked by celebration and fanfare. The big event, starting the night before, is a lantern procession through the streets. Each part of town and some of the guilds and traders creates their own lanterns and all converge on the centre to be judged.

We got ourselves down to the cotton tree near the judges to see the parade at 9 as instructed and duly waited 3 hours for the procession to start – so far, so Salone.
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Nor look en face by jc2010sl
February 20, 2010, 12:11 pm
Filed under: entertainment, society | Tags: , ,

I’ve been wondering what local Salone music was like since arriving in Freetown. The bars I’ve been to so far have been pretty expat-dominated with a diet of fairly cheesy R&B. When one of the Salones in the office offered tickets to the launch of home-grown DJ Lulu’s latest offering, I took him up on it. My colleague had met DJ Lulu in a bar and as they got chatting told her he worked in State House. This led to a visit to the office which caused much excitement. To put this in a UK context, you could imagine Josh Goodman meeting Lily Allen, telling her he works in No 10, and then giving her a tour of the building. Yeah, slightly odd, but this is Salone.
We headed off at about 10pm. We’d been told to get there for a 9pm start, but as the Japanese said – we’re on Salone time now. He was right – nothing happened for hours. I’d been expecting some kind of sweaty dance-hall type affair, but it was more like a sedate early evening BBQ. The venue was the outside area of a club on the hill; tables clustered around the pool and at stage at the back. The crowd was mostly well to do Salones and we were the only whites in the place. Quite a nice feeling not being surrounded by other expats, having spent most of my time up until then in either the office, downtown or on the beach.
The “gig” itself was a pretty surreal affair – 2 guys MC’ed in a mixture of Krio and English with frequent references to the corporate sponsors Africell: “bringing people together”. They opened proceedings with a 2 minute silent prayer to God and Allah (which lasted barely 20 seconds), immediately followed by “Beyonce”; a lip-synching drag queen in a micro-skirt. No division here between Christian and Muslim, or indeed between spiritual and secular.
Endless warm up acts followed, the better ones showered with cash from watching fans, until finally DJ Lulu took the stage. Her style is a kind of poppy calypso; upbeat songs given an unmistakable West African lilt for being sung in Krio.
And “Nor look en face”? It’s idiomatic Krio for “Don’t worry about it.”