Who Pays The Accordionist Calls The Tune

For the uninitiated, the Salia Koroma vignettes are, with a few exceptions, mostly culled from longer songs and narratives. In their way they demonstrate that a recording is no different from a live performance. There’s always an audience,  present or imagined (targeted); the artist is always performing, and they adjusts their “acts” accordingly. In this case the “audience” was the recording company, not necessarily the Joe Vamboi who was going to lay out his one- ‘n- six (or whatever the amount) for the record. The circumstance (sitting on a veranda or in a recording studio) will influence the content to varying degrees, as will the person (or entity) hosting the preformance.

They also show that technology places its own demands on the artist. For someone used to long night sessions with his patrons it must have been very demanding to be asked to edit a 30-minute song to  3 minutes or less. But the final products are just delightful, absolutely so. What’s not so delightful about them are the title. Let’s just say they leave a lot to be desired.

The first such vignette by Salliah and his Accordian (sic) that I’m posting (the second, really. Ko Sao was the first)  is entitled Yaumu Sukui. What in the name of God is that? In any case we know what Decca was going for: Yohmie School/Class/Tutorial (if we take the word “sukui” to be from the English “school”).  Compare this short version to the longer one I posted last February. The differences aren’t that great to be highlighted. Unless, of course, I’m in a nitpicking mood, which I’m not. The vocal play is amazing. And the timing! And the enunciation! The lyrical confidence!



Posted on January 22, 2010, in Salia Koroma, Yohmie (Ballad) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Dear Nikiibu

    Glad to have come across your notebook and the recordings of Salia Koroma. I wonder if you can help?

    I am doing some research about a well-known carver named Pessima or Kape/Cape. In the 1950s, he lived in a village called Moyambawo, not far from Taiama. A British art teacher named Massie-Taylor, who was based in Freetown then, was interested in Mende carving and visited him and collected many of his works. He also took him to Freetown, where Kape became further celebrated. Locally, however, Massie-Taylor was evidently regarded with some suspicion and thought to be a manifestation of the Mende trickster figure, ?Kasilla.

    I am told that Salia Koroma wrote and performed a song about Kape/Cape and Kasilla. Do you have any knowledge of this or any suggestions how to find out?

    Would appreciate your suggestions.


    • Dear Paul,

      Indeed, there’s a song about Kasilla wanting to take him on the hajj. I didn’t know about this very interesting angle to the song. I’ll give it another listen soon and see if there’re any clues to Massie-Taylor and/or Pessima. Probably not, but I’ll see.

      I just hope your research results aren’t due in within the next month or so. You see, I digitised my Salia recordings rather late, so some are in fairly bad state. And it’s been ages since I tried getting some good ones from back home. I’m still waiting for them (someone’s also trying to get me some from the same source, i.e. S/Leone). My idea’s to share Salia, so I’m quite willing to help anywhere I can anyone interested.

      • Dear Nikiibu

        Many thanks for your reply. I would dearly love to get a transcription of the lyrics of the song you mention, and to hear it if you would consider digitising it. Do know the title of the song?

        I shall be visiting SL again in March, so if you have any suggestions for where to track this down this would be much appreciated – I’d be happy to pass it on to you.

        Keep up the good work and thanks for your help.


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