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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, Pioneer Sierra Leonean Musician, Has Passed Away

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