We all experience places differently. If a young student were to describe a country based on memories and feelings, you’d get an entirely different result than when, say, an elderly architect would.
VSL has been showcasing city impressions from multiple perspectives through written articles, photographs and videos in order to attract a variety of audiences. We have written articles for yogi’s, party head, food lovers, adventurers and many more.
With the Freetown Music Festival just around the corner, we want to portray a music-tainted country, described with memories of musicians born and raised in Sierra Leone. Did a specific place inspire the creation of a song? Or did it give birth to a collaboration which turned out to be essential? In this series, we ask popular musicians about their top three places in Sierra Leone. They tell us their stories, which allows us to then enrich our experience
First in this series is Benjamin Menelik George, stagename Drizilik, one of the hottest contemporary musicians in Sierra Leone. The places he highlights are a mixture of nightlife and entertainment, whose vibes and crowds provide direct inspiration for his music.
Total in Bo City- I wrote Di Chif I Ship I Sup I Swit
“This place is special to me because it’s where I wrote one of my most popular tracks:Di Chif I Ship I Sup I Swit. That day, I woke up in Bo City with the hook in my head, but I couldn’t quite put it down. Later on in the evening I went to Total with a couple of friends. It’s a popular club, and I like it because it attracts a big crowd and they play a lot of Sierra Leonean music.
After settling down I started thinking about the song again, and the lyrics started coming to me. In fact, I spent the entire night restless, trying to not forget the lyrics and write them down in my phone. I couldn’t socialise with my friends. I’d sit there, think, go to the bathroom because it was noisy, then went outside, went to the other bar, just to get away from the crowd I was in. No talking or dancing. The next day I had to apologise to my friends.
Almost the entire song was written in Total. If you listen to it, there’s a part where it says, ‘tell am mak we meet don nar Total usai den de sell fuel” you know, it’s a bar close to a petrol station. I guess that’s why it’s called Total.
The same thing happened to me the next week. I’d eat, relax, socialise, but as soon as I settle down lyrics start popping up in my head. Apparently it’s a place that inspires me.
Total: Bo Kenema Road/Towama Road Junction
Listen to Di Chif I Ship I Sup I Swit on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4FFK9ELBH9S6kbAL73qIN8?si=uDAvAKX7RTOQKQGcQ96rMw
2 Guys Restaurant- Where I started performing as a professional musician
This place marks the start of my career. Together with Freetown Uncut band, we did a live gig every Wednesday evening for about a year. This was back in 2014. Although it was on a small scale, it allowed me to improve myself, practice for a crowd, and live as a full time musician.
In fact, it was my first job. I had to practice, prepare and make arrangements with other parties involved. I couldn’t walk in late (laughs). Plus, I got paid. I lived on that salary for a year.
We mostly did some freestyle stuff and cover songs, because I wasn’t really allowed to do my own songs. Maybe one or two every now and again. In order to promote my music a bit I’d add in some of my verses and mix up the cover songs.
Things started to change when I made Pop Collar, which is my breakthrough hit. I remember talking to Freetown Uncut and asking them, “Why can’t I perform my new song and promote it here?” We played some verses for three weeks. When the crowd got used to it I knew it was the time to release the song. It became a hit that same December.”
2 Guys Restaurant: 71 Wilkinson road, Freetown
Listen to Pop Collar on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/drizilik/pop-collar
Miami Beach Bar – where I get motivated by local musician
This place is a local spot, not too many foreigners come here. It’s also not too high end, so the drinks are cheap. A particular evening made an impression on me, and changed my thinking about my career and the music industry.
One evening, after the rehearsals for my last December gig in 2018, I went there with a friend of mine to relax. A couple of musicians were there too.
They were playing some music, so I sat a bit closer to them and listened in on their conversations. They spoke about how they had failed as musicians, how they had failed in life, how they regret making the decision to follow this path. They even warned me; that it would be hard for me to break out of Sierra Leone despite my talents. It was intense. These musicians are incredibly talented, but they all go through hardship. One of them had just been amputated, one is mentally unstable, and the other is going through a rough depression.
What was amazing though, was that they could play so incredibly well. Even after this depressing conversation, they started playing again, freestyling for hours on end. It got me thinking; I had never been engaged in such a talk before, and it opened my eyes regarding the entertainment industry, youth in Sierra Leone, and how the youth has been failed in this country, especially in this industry.
After this conversation it became my number one spot at the beach. I go there almost every weekend now. The conversations with these musicians continue. I try to give them hope and stimulate them. At the same time, they inspire me, and give me extra motivation to succeed as a musician not only in Sierra Leone, but abroad as well.
Miami Beach bar, Lumley Beach road
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Esther Kamara is a Dutch-Sierra Leonean that was born and raised in Amsterdam. After finishing her bachelor Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam she moved to Freetown, where she now works as a freelance writer and artist manager. Her brainchildren are otherworldly short stories and peculiar drawings of non-existing characters.