A Sierra Leonean 'First Symphony': Lamin Fofana's New EP

Sierra Leone's Lamin Fofana releases his new EP 'First Symphony,' off Sci Fi & Fantasy.

Photo by Erez Avissar / Weird Magic

Growing up in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Lamin Fofana was surrounded by music from an early age, grooving to the sounds of his uncle's reggae bands and head-nodding along with the rest of the world to the overwhelming influence of rap out of the West from such giants as Tupac and Biggie (who were huge in the country at the time). Late night MTV International videos of techno legends like Carl Craig also made their mark. Fofana's mother's side of the family are Madinka (West African descendants of the Malian empire), and as such, artists the likes of Salif Keita are almost embedded in his DNA.

Add to that the impact of performing later in life alongside such homegrown Sierra Leonean groundbreaking artists as thumb piano maestro Sorie Kondy, and Janka Nabay, the king of Bubu Music, then sprinkle in teenage years spent beatmaking as a young immigrant in the Washington DC metro, (where Fofana's family settled after fleeing the war), and you have quite a tasty musical stew.

Fofana draws from his rich and varied musical experience for First Symphony, his second release on Sci Fi & Fantasy, the new imprint label he co-owns with fellow Brooklynite Paul Lee. First Symphony is the second of three of his releases coming out on the label, which seeks to release truth-based music that "stands the test of time."

“All of those things I took in growing up comes out in my music," Fofana says. "Just standing on the street watching BuBu dances or the sounds of hanging out in the compounds, it’s all there in my music. Whether I am making electronic music or hip hop or any other kind of music, the African is there in it. It’s not like I consciously set out to represent Sierra Leone as an artist, I will just be making a track, and suddenly there’s a hand drum in it. I am embracing the chaos of the world becoming smaller but at the same time, a lot of music has become very standard. A lot of people say I make weird music but I am on the search to find new ways to express myself.”

Atmospheric and sexy throughout, a highlight off the EP is “Unidentified,” an Afrotech track which sounds like a computer shop on the continent when the doors are locked and the lights go down and the machines come out to play. Stream First Symphony (out now on Sci Fi & Fantasy) in full below. For more on Bubu music in Sierra Leone, listen to Wills Glasspiegel's research via Afropop along with their Bubu photo essay.

Image supplied by Candice Chirwa.

In Conversation with Candice Chirwa: 'Menstruation is More than Just Bleeding for Seven Days.'

South African activist Candice Chirwa, the 'Minister of Menstruation', speaks to us about what a period-positive world looks like, the challenges menstruators face even in 2020 and her important advocacy work with QRATE.

It's 2020, and naturally, tremendous advancements have been made across various spheres of society. From the prospect of self-driving cars and drones delivering medicines to rural areas to comparatively progressive politics and historic "firsts" for many disenfranchised groups, we've certainly come a long way. However, in the midst of all that progress, there is still one issue which continues to lag behind considerably and consistently, particularly in less developed countries: menstruation.

Candice Chirwa is a young Black woman on a mission to fiercely change the disempowering narratives and taboos that still shroud the issue of menstruation. The 24-year-old South African activist, who is endearingly known as the "Minister of Menstruation" on social media, wants young girls and women to not only accept but embrace their bodies fully in a society that insists on speaking in hushed tones about a perfectly normal biological process. Both Chirwa's research and advocacy work with the UN and her award-winning NGO, QRATE, has focused on dispelling common myths about menstruating, removing the shame and stigma around it and giving menstruators the knowledge and tools they need to navigate their world through impactful workshops.

And when Chirwa isn't collaborating with Lil-Lets, one of the biggest sanitary product brands on the continent, or co-authoring a bad-ass book titled Perils of Patriarchy, she's dominating the TEDx stage and making sure that her audience, no matter how diverse or varied, leaves the room feeling comfortable and courageous enough to boldly shout the word "vagina".

We caught up with Chirwa to discuss what initially compelled her to become a "period-positive" activist, her continued advocacy work with QRATE and what kind of world she imagines for menstruators.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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