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Proving the Bubu Myth: Janka Nabay, War and Witchcraft in Sierra Leone

Every year on Sierra Leone’s Independence Day in late April, musicians and revelers descend upon Freetown from throughout the country. Parades and celebrations traverse the city, joining diverse neighborhoods with processional music, including one particular local style called bubu, a trance-inducing sound played by groups of young men blowing interlocking, hocketed breath patterns into bamboo tubes. Bubu resonates with other African diasporic horn traditions, rara and gaga especially. It has long been a part of the cultural fabric of Sierra Leone, yet its deeper story has so far eluded scholarly examination. This program, supported by original fieldwork and by interviews with scholars Connie Nuxoll, David Skinner, Michael Gallope and John Nunley, begins a serious exposition and investigation of the intriguing mythology and history that surrounds this unique, hypnotic music, through a focus on musician Ahmed Janka Nabay, widely recognized in Sierra Leone and beyond as “the Bubu King.” Written and produced by Wills Glasspiegel and Drew Alt. Georges Collinet is away on assignment. Our guest host is Sahr Ngajuah, a musician and actor who starred in the Broadway show, Fela!.