Hear Here

Reppin’ Salone (Sierra Leone), Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Madison!), and the Bay Area, DJ Boima holds down a whirled music dance party in San Fran, moving the massive with a mix of (pan-)African and (pan-)American pop / hip-hop / club / etc. Readers of this here blog might have noticed his name in a flurry of comments w/r/t “No Te Veo” not long ago. Boima’s keen, open ears sensed all sorts of West African dancepop resonances in that hopped-up, reggaetony banger.

Thanks in part to that stimulating conversation, laced with YouTube links, and given that “Slow Music from West Africa” (via /rupture) has served so sweet as a late summer soundtrack, my appetite was well whet for the uptempo, Sierra Leone-centric mixtape Boima zshared me upon return from offline land

DJ Boima, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” | tracklist | notes

The mix came with an invitation:

since others have
been asking you for what you hear, I might as well ask
for you to share what you here from what the youth out
in Salone are doing.

Before I tell you what I hear here, tho, allow me to quote — at some length — Boima himself (via email) describing the poetics informing the mix:

It’s a real interesting
situation with the youth. Supposedly A LOT (maybe
most) of the youth in Freetown aren’t just unemployed,
but also not in school so they pretty much don’t have
much activity for their time. I’ve also read that the
economy is basically run by the diaspora sending money
back so there’s a definite idea that the U.S. (by
extension hip hop) is kind of like a gold mine. It’s
recently urbanized (last ten years) because of the war
and the refugee camps that have turned into
neighborhoods in the city. So maybe it’s a situation
that has the danger of becoming like Brazil, or the
Bronx in the 70’s (or Luanda, Soweto, Kingston, etc.)
I hope not, at least to spare the violence associated
with those places . From what I gather right now
violence is low, and apparently elections went off on
Saturday without a problem.

Oh.. and another thing is that reggae has always been
popular in Sierra Leone, but there’s a interesting
claim to reggae and dancehall that many Sierra
Leoneans make, due to the fact that the Freetown
Colony was settled by former Jamaicans, British and
Canadians. Many Sierra Leoneans think of reggae as
their native music and that Jamaica is a fraternal
twin of sorts, So much so that when the war happened
in 97 and I was supposed to go visit with my father
and brothers, we cancelled the trip and ended up going
to Jamaica instead, because my dad felt like it was
the next best thing.

As far as the mix goes, I included a variety of songs
from my dad’s old songs that I listened to as a kid,
the new youth stuff, and rap from 50 cent and
Juvenille. I included American hip hop for three
reasons. One is the names of the songs. Just a lil’
bit, Casualties of War, Get your hustle on are all
titles that evoke thoughts of the current state of
affairs over there. Second, American hip hop is
popular in Sierra Leone. And third American hip hop
is popular in America. (So de people dem buy.)

I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think.

-DJ B-

“DJ Boima”:

Of course, I’d like to know what you think, too (as would, I’m sure, Boima).

But here’s what I think at the moment. I really dig the way “Diamonds” offers up such a deeply personal & explicitly perspectival (if u will) sonic representation of Sierra Leone, mixing so many disparate styles and making it all make sense (of place). In that way (if I may) it’s not unlike my own attempts to represent the Boston soundscape and, accordingly, to revisit and revise my own (and maybe some sympathetic others’) imagination of our fair (and unfair) city.

It also occurs to me that to ask a question which reared its ugly head in my own ugly head at a certain juncture in the mix — i.e., is this mixtape utterance (if u will again) an African or an American speech music act? — is to employ the wrong operator entirely. It’s not a question of or, I don’t think. Better to hear it as what it is, or at least what it sounds like (to me, yes): as Africa and America intimately & inextricably intertwined, in constant if uneven conversation, vividly voiced by Boima in his own idiosyncratic way & contemporary accent — an American accent as well as, as dead prez say about 12.5 minutes in, a African accent.

And, yuh dun know, a Jamaican accent too. Indeed, the prominent way the Caribbean figures here reminds me to remind you that when I say American, I mean that in the broadest sense. Once again we hear how hip-hop travels together with dancehall, crossing roots and routes as per usual.

So, that’s a few of the things I hear here (or to be precise, a few of the things I heard as I let the mix move me on a sunny afternoon in Cambridge). But what about you? & where and when and why?