In the 1960's I knew of two Mende/Sierra Leonean singers - S.E. Rogers and Salia Koroma. S.E. Rogers wrote and sang less complicated songs - yet it was his simplicity that I liked, and his pleasant voice and guitar playing. His songs were often a mix of English, Krio, and Mende and of his many songs, my favorite was the well-known My Lovely Elizabeth. I have provided for a few of his recordings on the right. Salia Koroma was perhaps a more complex man or at least his music was. Well-known throughout Sierra Leone and perhaps beyond, Mr. Koroma lived near Kenema. His songs were entirely in Mende, his language complex and at times even hard to understand by those who spoke Mende fluently due to his deep-Mende that he often used. I always felt that the complexity of his songs was in their double meaning. For a very fine and ongoing review of Mr. Koroma and his work please see: http://nikiibu.blogspot.com/2008/11/first-among-equals.html#links
I was lucky enough to have met Mr. Koroma and to have talked with him a number of times. I do not remember who was my contact with him (it may have been a craftsman I knew named Su Gande - but of this I am not sure). Salia Koroma (photo above) had a whole entourage with him - mostly family - when I first met him at his house. By that time I had heard little of his music but I liked what I heard. His songs were rapid fire and he accompanied his songs with his accordion. He did sing a few songs for all of us on the day I met him. I had also heard that Mr. Koroma could make me a spirit that I was interested in called Falwi (?sp). I think on the day that I took his picture I also negotiated with him to make me Falwi - which indeed he agreed to do. I spent perhaps a half-hour talking with Mr. Koroma. I suspect that we talked in Krio (or perhaps English) - I was hardly conversant in Mende. I remember him being amused at my interest in Falwi, and in fact somewhat puzzled. Our meeting was very stiff and formal. By then he was in his 60's and was almost royalty in Mendeline. I believe that he died in the 1990's. If you care to listen to him just double-click on the link to the right. It is worth listening to. For those who know Mende well - this song (from Nikiibu blog) will make you smile - of this I am sure.