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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.


He moved to the United States in 2003 and, since then, has released a number of bubu music records alongside the Bubu Gang on labels like True Panther and Luaka Bop. His 2012 album, En Yay Sah, received wide critical acclaim across influential publications like NPR and Pitchfork, and was a heavy favorite at our OkayAfrica offices here.

In his latest album, Build Music, released last year, Janka Nabay payed homaged to his native Sierra Leone.

"Build Music is an album that I cherish a lot, because for a long time I don't make no album," Janka told Bandcamp at the time. "It's like trying to build something different because our country doesn't have a signature trend of music. In Sierra Leone, we played borrowed music—reggae, hip-hop, R&B—nothing is ours. I tried to build our trend. That's why I pick the name, Build Music. In Build Music, I'm on a safari to America."

Last year, Janka Nabay listed his 10 favorite things he loves about Sierra Leone for us, which included his village of Masimora, his favorite soccer team East End Lions and, of course, bubu music.

"In recent months, Janka was at work on his third full-length album in a collaboration with the up and coming Sierra Leonean producer, Lanzo On D Beat, before his life was tragically cut short," writes Luaka Bop. "He had plans to complete, with Lanzo, a third album for Luaka Bop, with the hopes of future international touring with his Bubu Gang. While the third album is currently incomplete, upon the news of Nabay's death, Lanzo wrote this song from his studio in Freetown, 'RIP Janka Nabay.' "

Revisit Janka's truly captivating and impressive bubu music sound—play it loud today—and see some reactions from fellow musicians and friends below.








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Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images.

A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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