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Janka Nabay. Photo by Sydney Schleiff & Oliver Citrin.

The Legacy of Janka Nabay, Sierra Leonean Music's 'Bubu King'

Two Sierra Leonean artists share their opinion on Janka Nabay and his influence on their artistic development.

On April 2nd, 2018, Ahmed Janka Nabay passed away in his homeland, Sierra Leone. He was known nationally and internationally as the Bubu King for his modernisation and popularisation of bubu, a music style indigenous to the Temne tribe of Sierra Leone. Janka Nabay broke through in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, and after he moved to the United States in 2002, where he played and produced alongside a group of musicians as Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang.

Janka infused bubu music, traditionally played on bamboo flutes and metallic or wooden drums, with funk, and used a combination of Western and electronic instruments to replicate the hypnotic melodies. After Janka left Sierra Leone, his status transcended from Sierra Leonean music hero to being called "cool" by Westerners, touring the world and bringing bubu to an even bigger audience.

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Janka Nabay. Photo by Sydney Schleiff & Oliver Citrin.

Janka Nabay, Pioneer Sierra Leonean Musician, Has Passed Away

News arrived this morning that Janka Nabay, the king of 'bubu' music, has passed away.

Celebrated Sierra Leonean musician Ahmed Janka Nabay has sadly passed away, according to news reports.

OkayAfrica also received word from label, Luaka Bop, about the passing of Janka Nabay, who mentioned that the artist died in Sierra Leone following a short illness. "He died unexpectedly in the Kambia District of northwestern Sierra Leone on Monday, April 2, following a sudden stomach illness," Luaka Bop writes in their obituary.

"His body was transported to Freetown on Monday evening for funeral services on Wednesday, April 4. His death was confirmed by his longtime friend, journalist Wills Glasspiegel, and his bandmates of 8 years, Boshra AlSaadi and Michael Gallope, who have been in touch with his family in Sierra Leone."

Janka became a star in 1990s Sierra Leone for this updated take on traditional bubu music, which he created by adding electric studio instrumentation to the traditional genre.

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Janka Nabay: 10 Things I Love About Sierra Leone

The king of 'bubu' music, Janka Nabay, tells us his 10 favorite things about his home of Sierra Leone.

In our “10 Things I Love” series we ask our favorite musicians, artists & personalities to tell us what they like the most about their home country.

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