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Salia says…Something Weighty Billows Across The Sky

rain clouds

Rain clouds gather, but only, for they will not break.

They will not break at all; only the Society is passing by.

Something weighty billows across the sky, hemmed in by rain clouds.

A Know-nothing may see it but will not, foolhardily, give it away

If you blab on about it you will not be back when you go.


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…


-You cannot leave a woman because she drinks;

The next one could live at the mouth of a bottle.

Indeed she could be a stopper.

-If you’re walking along a path and you happen to see an elder stepping out of the bush sniffing his hand

Try not to laugh.

The leaf he was using to spruce up just could have ripped.