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.


Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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