The Freetown Tapes: A Mixtape From Sierra Leone’s Thumb Piano Master Sorie Kondi & Chief Boima

Sorie Kondi takes his name from the Sierra Leonean thumb piano (kondi), a close relative of the mbira which the blind musician played through a distorted amplifier while busking on the streets of Freetown in the ’90s.

In 2006, a field recording of Kondi, who had been left behind after his family and friends fled the city’s rebel takeover, garnered global attention and led to Kondi recording other celebrated albums such as Without Money No Family.

Chief Boima, who released Sorie Kondi’s Thogolobea on Dutty Artz, has now put together a 10-year retrospective of Sorie Kondi’s career in the form of The Freetown Tapes 2006-2016 mixtape, which is available now, for the price of your choice, on Bandcamp.

Chief Boima and Sorie Kondi now play together as The Kondi Band,  who are playing Les Rencontres Trans Musicales festival in France on November 30th.

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“This mix is a collection of songs from across Sorie Kondi’s recorded music career,” Boima writes to Okayafrica. “Sorie has now recorded and finished five albums in total. The first was a field recording conducted by Luke Wasserman in 2006, during the post-war period of Sierra Leone. This was a time Sorie was surviving by busking on the streets of Freetown, after having been abandoned by relatives and friends who had fled the rebel take over of Freetown in the late 90s—his in progress first studio album had also been lost in that period. His sound at that time was marked by his electrified Kondi that was run through a small distorted amplifier that he carried on his back while performing on the street. Luke’s Music of Sierra Leone: Vol. 3 – Sorie Kondi captures that moment, and Sorie’s gritty sound at the time, brilliantly.”

“After that first recording session, Sorie convinced Luke to help him realize his dream of finishing a studio album. In a recording session at Luke’s house, Sorie produced and played many of the instruments on what would become the Without Money No Family album. The Kondi sound was cleaner, and the full song arrangements in Sorie’s head were finally able to come to light. This project would garner worldwide attention for Sorie Kondi, and its release in 2007 was also the moment at which he caught my own eye.”

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Sorie Kondi and Chief Boima. Photo: Jamil GS.

“The success of those two albums led to two studio albums produced in Freetown by Fadie Conteh of LP studios. Thogolobea which I released on Dutty Artz in early 2013, and Ngor Me-hinheh which remains unreleased outside of Sierra Leone. Fadie situates Sorie’s compositions alongside the contemporary Afropop sound of West Africa, a sound that has saturated Freetown in digital auto-tuned dance music, local variations of gangster rap, romantic calypso, and digital dancehall — all made for large speakers at roadside bars and beach side clubs. This Afropop zeitgeist brushes alongside cultural music from across the country’s provinces in Fadie’s studio, making him one of the chief curators and producers of Sierra Leonean traditional music today.”

“This mix also includes one original and two remixes of songs from our debut Kondi Band album Salone, due out early next year. The remixers included on here are the UK’s Hagan, a young electronic producer of Ghanaian descent who grew up in London, and Broso, a Guatemalan-American producer of Garifuna descent based in LA.”

“I hope you enjoy this selection of the best from Sorie Kondi’s recorded music career!”

Tracklist

1) Outtake from Without Money No Family Sessions
2) Mene Bakor
3) Ngor Mehinheh [I’m Hungry]
4) Fred Usay Yu Nor Sabi [Afraid of what you don’t know]
5) Belle Wahalah (Hagan Remix)
6) Komot Biyen Me [Get off my back]
7) Salone Tiday (Fadie Conteh Techno Mix)
8) We Nor Go Die
9) Yeanoh (Powe Handa Bingabe)
10) Kombra [Suckling Mother]
11) Sorie Thogolobea
12) Everything Don Der
13) Hey Baby (Shake your Tumba) – Live at The Forge London April 2016
14) Congosa
15) Titi Dem Too Service (Broso Remix)
16) Without Money No Family

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