Photo: Michael Chia.

Bai Kamara Jr. Wants to Bring the Blues Back Home

The Sierra Leonean musician delves into the history of the blues and its West African roots in his latest album, Salone.

Sierra Leone is probably not the first place you think of when you think of blues music, but Bai Kamara Jr is hoping to change that.

Bai's childhood in Sierra Leone in the 1970s was full of eclectic and global musical influences. His uncles introduced him to BobMarley, Curtis Mayfield, The Police and Fela Kuti. But it was only when he went to the UK at age 15 for school that he first heard the blues.

Music came naturally to Bai but he had to negotiate with his family to embark on a music career, unconventional for the son of an ambassador. "We agreed to a trial period which is still ongoing" he jokes as he reflects on his close to three decades as a musician. Bai moved to Brussels in 1990 and his earlier albums reflect his self-proclaimed status as a world citizen, experimenting with soul, jazz and Latin rhythms. Over the past decade he began to delve into the history of the blues and its West African roots. During his sets at the legendary La Bellevilloise in Paris he heard styles like delta blues, the sounds of the American South, and the desert blues from the Sahara, but his region was silent.

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