A Rebirth of the Kondi

Sorie Kondi - Thogolobea
Sorie Kondi – Thogolobea
Sorie Kondi

Thogolobea (Dutty Artz, 2013)

Thogolobea is the new album by Sorie Kondi, a remarkable musician from Sierra Leone. Sorie Kondi combines the traditional sounds of his thumb piano with electronic effects, dance beats, processed vocals and lyrics about his struggles and social awareness regarding various important issues in his country.

Sorie Kondi was born blind in the Sierra Leone village of Mangiloko. At a very young age, Sorie Kondi taught himself how to play the nearly extinct kondi, a traditional lamellophone (thumb piano) of his home region.

Kondi was not given the opportunity to go to school so he focused on his musical instruments and played at ceremonies and weddings outside his village. The terrible civil war in Sierra Leone during the 1990s forced Kondi to move to Freetown (Sierra Leone’s capital) in 1996. There, he took the artistic name of Sorie Kondi, after his instrument, and adapted the traditional kondi for his captivating street performances, adding homemade amplification and speakers that would allow him to be heard over the sounds of Freetown’s industrious markets.

During the sacking of Freetown in 1999, Kondi stayed and was forced to hide in his house. His plans to release an album were shattered by the civil war when his manager fled Sierra Leone and his master tapes were destroyed. From this phase of difficulty, the song “Without Money No Family” became his anthem.

A fortuitous encounter in 2006 with American recording engineer Luke Wasserman on the street allowed Kondi to release his music for the first time. He quickly became a familiar name in sierra Leone.

In 2011, independent filmmaker Banker White, who had co-directed the much-admired documentary on Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars, brought Kondi’s music video for “Without Money No Family” to New York-based DJ and producer Chief Boima (himself of Sierra Leonean descent). Boima really liked Kondi’s haunting vocals, acerbic lyrics, and beautiful kondi playing and knew he had to remix the song. His remix led to an East Coast tour of the United States in 2012.

Freetown producer Fadie Conteh added to Thogolobea the popular Autotune and digital recording technology that has spread throughout West Africa.

Thogolobea is a splendid album by Sorie Kondi, a hard working musician and composer who is finally getting the international attention he deserves.

Buy the Thogolobea MP3s. CDs are also available at concerts.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

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