Salia Says…



The short-stemmed pipe smoker is a cocky one.

No sooner he clenches on one side of the mouth than he goes:

  -My head is in the clouds!

Salia Koroma, Kpomuma Jekele

But as the great tree falls they take flight.

When the Worthy falls the whispering campaigns come to an end.

Salia Koroma, Manawa (longer version)


Salia Koroma: “The Worthy’s End is the Musician”

The late American-born ethnomusicologist Jean Jenkins was in Sierra Leone in 1976 and recorded Salia Koroma in Kenema.

One thing we should note about this recording is that Salia was recorded in context, within a particular cultural and social frame of reference, in this case Salia performing his role as court singer and accordionist. So this wasn’t Salia Koroma putting out a commercial recording, and he wasn’t performing for someone on an intellectual investigation of foreign, non-western musical traditions.

Jean Jenkins in Sierra Leone, 1976

Jean Jenkins in Sierra Leone, 1976

The recording is the crowd favourite, the inescapable Mende Gendei, remarkable in this incarnation only by its consistency to most other versions. I say most other versions because Salia for the most part tended to avoid (as he has done here) the second ‘movement’ that chronicles chiefs who have passed on and the silence they have left behind them.

Salia Says…

What’s eaten in holes and corners doesn’t profit

-Or the squirrel would be a deer.

An HMV soundbox/head

An HMV soundbox/head

When a child, on a whim, wishes to insult an adult in a gathering

They’ll say:

“What part on a person hasn’t a known name?”

In that hide quite a few insults.

But he who doesn’t know doesn’t know.

His Master's Voice gramophone

His Master’s Voice gramophone