Janka Nabay might be more of a myth than a man. In his homeland of Sierra Leone, there aren’t many who would challenge his self-proclaimed status as “King of Bubu“, he being single-handedly responsible for rehabilitating a musical form once locked in folk tradition with synthesizers, drum machines, and a relevant, progressive political message. His music is refreshing and enigmatic—with 160 BPM cowbell/metal-pipe bump and monotone Krio call-and-response. Surviving the violent bedlam of civil war, playing for rebel militias, influencing national politics, selling ten of thousands of tapes, and then emigrating to the States to work in a Philly fried chicken chain before connecting with like-minded artists in Brooklyn—no doubt, Janka also has personal story that could make Oprah’s knees weak. His epic runs farther and deeper than we can get into here, but despite his legendary reputation, in person he sounds like any other driven musician who’s just trying to get the word out—unassuming and passionate. “The Bubu man is here!” he says in his tour-funding kickstarter video, clapping with a playful and even self-conscious flash of teeth. “The Bubu King, Janka Nabay.”
Today, we have the pleasure of giving out his Sabanoh tape, recorded in the mid-nineties in Freetown, Sierra Leone at Super Sound Studios. It was recorded as civil war raged in the country, and the name means “We Own This Land”—a direct response to the appropriation of his recordings by rebel armies as a rallying tool. While you’re listening, scan Janka’s kickstarter. If you catch yourself vibing, consider throwing some cash his way. He’s got less than two days left!
Download: Janka Nabay’s Sabanoh Tape