Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Langa Poem I Dae By Chapta Wata Na Dak Ples

to mi, na wan gren poem dae na worl
yu go jes dae rayt am normor tae go
tae ning nang

tem dae i go tae yu nor rayt natin
oda tem
eni minit yu fulop pepa
bikos wetin yay si
en yase yeri
somtem dae kin ful mot
pas yu tek blu bik ondastand am

as dem kin aks
na buk mek sens or na sens mek buk?
du ya tel wi no profesoh

dis layf ya so
yu noh go no wetin dae kam mit yu

tidae olting fitin gbet
da wata wey na foh yu sef sef
go ron lef yu
den nah ya so sef
if yu noh pay yutiliti bill
di wata wey na foh yu
i noh go ron at ol

tiday yone, na wan blu dog wan trifut mi
wey ah komot na was ose

he he, yu fil sae na lay eh?
na udat noh get pikin na ose normor go dawt di wod

di dog, dem rayt na im sayd, Taylor Swift

eniwe, a balans di blu Topsy
nah im mek ah ebul tinap front una rayt naw
de wondrin....

usai dae wae man get foh go
wen olting skata na im han'
olting los pan am
im abope
wey im shem noh koba egen

na fiaful ples da wan dey oh
leke Pademba Rod kondoh
wey layt noh dae fo si wetin yu dae put na mot
yu noh sabi wetin yu dae it

(to be continued)

Langa Langa Poem (I Dae By Chapta) Langa Tranga Poem (De Riyal Chapta Wan)

dis na langa langa poem

tranga tranga poem

wey yu si na red ink nomo

fit fo tek rayt am

poem wey man no rili mek op fo rayt sef

na pepa en pen mitop oh

bifo jek

poem bigin rayt insef

naijiria man kin seh

nah wah oh

yu blant si dray yay poem lek dis wan dey

langa poem lek dis

liba poem lek dis

poem wey get maynd fo waka bia fut pan chuk chuk

get maynd fo rayd baysikul bia wes

na kwari

basta pikin poem

to mi enitin wey ah dae fen nah dis wol, leh ah noh get am

sweh to mi mami, mi na man is dis

leh ah alaki kayn poem

Nah dem poem ya kin luk yu na yu yay

koro koro wan

den laf to yu

don i chap yu 'an fep

bifo do klin sef

wen i don i go sidom

konvinient wan wit im padi dem

dae it atcheke

langa tranga basta poem

wey if yu luk am gud

na Afrikaman poem

bot i fiba lek i fambul to da poem

wey muta bin rayt nah jimeka

wey nem dis poem

bot normor

ah biliv mi pej lekke ow a biliv

mi wef

en mi pej tel mi sey na mi bon dis poem

en olman sey di poem fiba mi

wit im langa tranga basta sef

noh men am oh

sontem dae i kin mek lek oodat

noh dae tok

lekke bota noba melt

na im mot

ah dae tel yu somtin

if dis poem mek na ya

i kin mek dull eyes ol

melt lek den fom tri pikin

wey na tiday fos

ticha dae yan am

da tem dae yu noh go biliv

sey na da sem raray man poem

wey kin dae kos mami kos

en pull shot fo fet

rob pepe nah yu yay en yu wes jangrey man poem

i kin sidom midul sivilays poem dem

lek fayn fayn flawa

dae mek gud boy

so tae tradey da grani nah big yad

wey im yes kok, en i noh dae si fayn

gi poem koppoh fo go bay patch granat

en sevin op

olman pini

grani sey "nah wetin?"

olman set mot

poem noh du wan in noh du tu

i ton bak ma

wit di granat, di sevin op

en di grani in chenj

i shotop evribodi

yu go olmos wan for sey

usai tru dae foh tok

dis poem ya get trenin

bot if yu luk gud gud

insay in yay

yu go no seh

i noh go ezitet foh kil posin

rigadles if i don tote in faya

langa langa poem

tranga poem wey no givadem, givarap

poem wey get penda na im fut

den drai drai fut

wey wet man noh kin biliv sey get trenk

foh tote motalman sef

bikos den kin luk di fut by di lukin

noh no sey pamine dae gi trenk

i lek sef i noh gi bodi

noh no sey poem nah dem ole bone yong boy

wey don pley bol

tu shilin ren bol

pan motoka trit wey get galop

en klem koknat tik

en dans jiglo na blowop en kawnt en laronda

bifo insef luk ping en lef

wey den ples dae noh swit am egen

Langa tranga poem wey get ekspiriyens

poem wey go kollej

di tem wey kollej nah bin still sontin

(to be continued)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Langa Poem (I dae by Chapta) Belle Wod


if a aks wetin dae mona yu
yu go tell mi?
belle wod tranga for rilis oh! i noh izi
posin kin swella am tae
i ton oda ting

padi noh padi
fren noh fren
yu noh know wetin a kip
wety ah noh tell yu

som wod dae, nah if yu tok am
i dae ton tru tru
man kin tok am saful saful
leh im God sef no yerri

belle wod if i tok or noh tok
kin ton denja wod

Friday, July 09, 2010

Savisman Krai

savisman bet im finga
i krai
i'ala wai

i krai oh, aah i krai

yay wata
boku wata
bita wata

bita bita krai

i krai so tae
bot di wata noh du
foh was fes sef
foh klia da wahala wey savisman bin don si
komot na im 'ed

pan ol wey i boxop
yay wata insai briwi wata sef
savisman kin still drim
di worwor

da tem wey fredman kontri
ton reybel kontri
ton babu yay libaman kontri

di ting dem wey motalman no yek foh du
to dem kompin
dem tem dae
wey shem don na kontri keng
dem tem dae mek savisman dae yek
tae tae naw

wan 'an man kam boku
grani dem ton ol 'ous rilay,
sports day
for dae ron ron
en jomp fench
butu biyen latrin
foh tek koba
sori 'at noh dae foh pikin

da tem wae dieman na komon tin'
dieman bizness smell pan wi
dog dem ton lepet
dae it motalman bif

broda en sista dem
wisef to wisef normor
foseka wetin

savisman memba far
en i krai

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Snapshot: Pati Gbos Gbos

so wi dae na di pati oh
mi tinap
mi man lap
na im wan oda bra grap
bigin mek yap yap

dem bonga raray man vibes
wey dem kin don chak
tae i trifut imsef
trowe im respap
doti mi nyu trosis
wey ah buy na di Gap

ah noh lef am gi am oh
ah pak am slap
i bokul mi
ah ondaswet am en swip am
i fodom bap

Response by Naiambana

Pat Naiambana
yeah Les, I'm thinking of changing my name to Pat Bai Naiambana-Bureh

One of the best productions I have ever been in for sheer creative linguistic brilliance and social relevance was Dele Charley's Makuba. A Krio rendition of Shakespeare's Macbeth -a story about a military commander who killed to become King aided and abetted by his ambitious ... See Morewife. A site specific production at the Paramount Hotel in 1984. We played under a huge mango tik. tik, thick, stick, get it? Used the terraces and the grounds for various exits and entrances. It was no mere adaptation or translation either but a faithful tracing and matching of Shakespeare's word play and rhythmic pentametre blank verse structure in Krio. At the same time utterly original and faithful to Sierra Leonean culture and political landscape. We performed in modern Sierra Leone Army uniform. The language imagery was so beautiful, profound and striking that even a group of peace corp first timers to Sa Lone understood the play but were not familiar with Krio. In this Diasporic Global World, The African Diaspora, the Krio language in particular contains enormous potential for intercultural dialogue and social change. Makuba was one of Dele's masterpiece. In the UK in 88, whilst trudging the cold empty of gold London pavements I tried to tell him so but the inexorable pull towards legitimacy by the dominant entertainment paradigms seemed to cause him to doubt that Makuba was/is really that good a play. Krio is not simply a derivative off-shoot of colonial domination but a supreme example of human potential to re-invent and flourish. Frogs and bats cant speak or save themselves from extinction. Krio is an example of Africans speaking themselves into being and the future.

I have also been in a competent Nigerian patois adaptation of Macbeth, didnt come close to Dele's technical mastery or the poetic power of krio. The utter lack of an awareness of the supernatural in Western Theatre makes swathes of Shakespeare arid but not so in African world views or Sa Lone socio-cosmology, just to mention one example of where we creatively sparkle with aesthetic options.

The same could be said for Dele's One Paun Flesh - The Merchant of Venice - this is hardly ever played with laughs anywhere in the world - but in the Sa Lone context it was serious and tear-streaming hilarious. The Jew Shylock became Sarjoh di Fula man. But the business flair and protectiveness of Fula man for en gyal piken was not the dark prism it normally is in the eurocentric perspective. Denis Nelson-Streeter, who played Sarjoh (Shylock) I have always maintained is one of the world's most brilliant storytellers and captivating comedians. In his hands this role matched maybe transcended Pacino's very strong portrayal (check the DVD of the film) simply because the Sa Lone perspective allowed a humorous pathos - we have a way of putting political correctness firmly in it's place and therefore deal honestly with and transcend dilemmas of difference. Look at the way someone might say - 'mi mama na bin haf cast'.

I have played some of the biggest theatre gigs in the UK and we are more than in the mix with a lot to offer- with our aesthetic sensibilities allayed to an art for life's sake quotient we should be a lot more visible than we are. Given the proximity of the English language, history, culture to our jazz processes of creolization we should not be invisible. Perhaps Culture-preneurship is a way forward. Sorry for the essay folks, but we must value what we have, what is inalienably ours. Clues to Change paradigms for Sa Lone/Africa lie in the untapped aptitude for innovation and adaptability embedded in our cultural forms. Madeleine lets keep looking for that moment to suture forces and resources. ;-) I will go back to a few lines here and there now Les - Dele Charley was a monumental artist and teacher, a leader, a humble man. Got to be said. Sad thing is - I remember Dele Charley presenting a script for Blood of a Stranger to a major UK theatre. They didnt understand the place of dance as narrative within the text and dismissed it. It was also a political critique of european and african complicity in the exploitation of land. I faced a similar resistance with my gigs but not from audiences. So what's the moral of the story?

stori cam, stori go, e lef pan u!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Congratulate Freetong Players on a Quarter Century of Activity

To The Freetong Players on the occasion of their 25th Anniversary Celebrations. March to May 2010.

First of all let me say congratulations to the Freetong Players on an achievement that is not to be underestimated. To have survived, let alone thrived as an artistic institution in Sierra Leone for 25 years, particularly these last 25 years is a remarkable achievement. It has taken significant measures of determination, courage, single-mindedness, strength, loyalty and consistency of purpose, not to mention vision, artistry, creativity and goodwill. I am sure we have all already done so but please, let us ponder this outstanding achievement for a moment, then rise and applaud the people that have made it happen.
These are people to be proud of. People to be honored and appreciated. People to be protected and supported. They are people to be emulated. These are the Freetong Players.

Many people at home in Sierra Leone and also worldwide, have had significant input into the work, development and success of Freetong Players over the years. However, no history, tribute or discussion of this group, this institution, would be valid without acknowledgement of the total commitment and sacrifice of the founders Charlie & Fatie Haffner and their immediate and extended family. Charlie & Fatie please stand up and be recognized. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, these are people of vision and integrity, of commitment to the arts and to their country. They are tenacious and determined, creative and talented. They are the artistic spirit personified, and we are thankful for and appreciative of the caliber of their ongoing efforts and achievements. Please let our appreciation and esteem ring loudly in their ears.

I am very proud that the foundation day of Freetong Players May 20 is also my birthday. The group was founded in 1985 though I was born a few years before that. This shared birthday is just one source of my affinity with the Players. Living in the UK at the time, I first heard of Charlie Haffner from the late great Dele Charley of blessed memory. We would talk late into the night about the arts in Sierra Leone and the people involved. The esteem and respect with which he always mentioned Charlie stuck with me, and Dele was very accurate in his prediction that “you en Charlie go gree bad.” As Dele was something of an artistic mentor to me, my curiosity was aroused and I began to look forward to meeting this Haffner fellow. When I decided to introduce the Salone Jamaa Fest, Charlie Haffner was one of the first Sierra Leone based artists I contacted by letter.

The great irony is that my first ever meeting in person with Charlie Haffner was in a pew at St John church in Freetown in 1995. I had arrived early for the service and was sitting alone as I didn’t know anybody present. A guy with short dreads and small glasses entered the same pew and slid up next to me. As I recall, we both instinctively knew who the other was, and we have remained close friends since then. The occasion? The memorial service for Dele Charley.

Since that time I have become an unofficial member of Freetong Players as has my family, and a huge fan of their work. I have seen the Players at work in Freetown, and collaborated with them in the UK and the USA. At all times they have been champions of Sierra Leonean arts and cultural practices. Veritable cultural ambassadors. During the 1990’s I accompanied the group to the historic and world famous Sidmouth Folk Festival in Devon, southwest England. There were groups invited from all continents representing more than 20 countries, but the undeniable highlight of the festival was the contribution by the Freetong Players. Neither my family nor I will ever forget the opening parade where the Players were chosen to lead a procession of all the performers at the official commencement of the festival. We entered with a drum beating; song singing and costume-wearing extravaganza that set a joyous tone that lasted until the closing ceremony four days later. For the entire time we were there the other artists, the organizers and of course the audiences were fascinated by everything the Freetong Players had to say and do. Let me add that the opening parade took place at about 1PM on a day in which we had met the group at London Gatwick Airport at around 7AM, at which time they got straight onto a coach and were driven to Sidmouth. A journey of about 4 hours. They were literally straight off 24 hours of traveling when they led that procession. A testament to their composure, preparedness and professionalism.

To be honest, it would take me about 24 hours to recount the many experiences I have shared with this remarkable group of people. Remind me one day (perhaps at the 30th anniversary) to tell you the story of the London tour we collaborated on and the episode in which someone stole our mamkpara. Yes, you heard me correctly. “Dem tif we mamkpara.” Not just the costume oh, the whole entire mamkpara. For now, suffice it to say that through some excellent detective work, we found and reclaimed said mamkpara, and when Charlie recounted the story on stage at the last event of the tour; we had to restrain audience members from storming the dressing room and beating the mamkpara. Mamkpara miss for turn to Dudas! Let’s just say that with Freetong Players the drama is not confined to onstage.

An essential part of the Freetong Players work ethic is an unwavering commitment to learning and teaching. The group makes an effort to learn about all aspects of Sierra Leone history, arts and culture, and then transmits this knowledge to its members and through them, to audiences worldwide. I am sure that one day their dream of a fully-fledged artistic training school will be realized. Noto so Fatie? (Smile)

There is now a considerable Freetong Players Diaspora made up of former members, collaborators, supporters and fans of this venerable institution. From Gambia, to Belgium, Holland, Britain and America, former players are using the skills and talents nurtured at the Telem Centre, to educate, inform and entertain, and present Sierra Leone in a positive light.

It is my hope that the next 25 years will see the harnessing of this Diaspora and its resources to strengthen the core group here at home, and develop it’s invaluable work even further. In closing, I ask you to once more rise and acknowledge this significant milestone in the history of a beloved and invaluable institution.
Ladies and gentlemen, The Freetong Players are 25 years old. Hearty congratulations and here’s to the next 25.

My thanks.

Les Rickford
Dallas, Texas, March 2010.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Of Monkeys & Murder

What is your attitude to free stuff? Is it your objective to obtain goods and services for nothing at every opportunity or do you pay the proper price as a matter of principle? Does your attitude depend on whether the services or products are supplied by a Sierra Leonean? What are your experiences of supplying to this community?

In my photographic work I will almost always choose the Salone related engagement over another when faced with a choice, and this usually entails accepting a lower fee. I do so in part because it serves my (self-appointed?) role as a community documentarian. In twenty years I'd rather have an archive containing hundreds of thousands of images of our individual & collective Salone families in the diaspora as a record of our evolution in times sad and glad, than a collection of photographs of people I didn't really ever know and may well never meet again. There is a point beyond which the income differential will take priority but most of the time the community service principle prevails.

The price I agree for bookings always includes a "kinship discount" in anticipation of the presentation of coupons such as :borbor ah sabi yu mami, hah wi ol go Samaria skool," "yu wef na mi close fambul," and, "bo yu na mi main man." Even so there is always the notion, sometimes expressed, mostly implied, that one should be doing this for free, at least for this individual, or fro "granat koppoh." Many people are reluctant to secure their booking by paying a deposit, and will try to extract services way beyond those contractually agreed.

In my print on site event portrait work I also price under market rate and immodest as it may sound, the quality produced is better than good. Would it be rude of me to point out the irony to the man in his $400+ suit, $250+ shoes (and the most consistently impressive shoes I've seen on Salone men, I've observed since moving to Dallas) and bling, and his spouse in expensive fabric, exclusive designer labels and augmenting accessories? They approach my mobile studio looking fantastic as a couple and seeking to memorialize their glorious fabulousness in an 8.5x11 print, and balk at a charge of $10. I've resolved that next time this happens I will quietly lay down my Canon 40D camera with additional battery grip, speedlite EXII flashlight, and portrait lens, reach for my blackberry mobile phone, raise it to my eye and state calmly, "say cheese!" If you want to pay peanuts then I'm gonna monkey with you.

About four weeks ago I met a young Salone man aged about 20 in Dallas. He told me he was here for a few months before joining the military and that meanwhile he'd like to assist in my work and learn photography. I took his number and told him I'd give him a call when a suitable booking arose. Two Sundays ago I saw his uncle at an event and recounted the conversation to him. He informed me that the young man was back in New Jersey as he had shown up unannounced and that the joining the military was something he was thinking about but had not started the process. I learned that as a child the young man had been an excellent student in Sierra Leone, and that had continued when he arrived in the USA some 10 years ago and attended high school. However, in the last couple of years he had become involved with drug dealers and adopted a lifestyle which had led to him being catching 8 bullets Fifty Cent style in Ohio, and being banished from the homes of a host of family members, including that of his father and stepmother, as his lifestyle was not conducive to living in a home with two younger girls, his sisters. The uncle and I spoke a bit about how to mentor young men on the cusp of adulthood and at the fork in the road where life can go permanently negative or positive and ended on the thought that whatever form of help could be successful would require a genuine intention to choose a positive path on the part of the young fellow himself. That conversation was had on a Sunday and by the following Wednesday, that young man was in custody in New Jersey accused of having broken into the house of his father and murdering his stepmother who was in her early 30's. A tragedy in the ending of two lives and devastation of several more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Expatriate Episode 8: A Hard Days Night

Wapi was in a foul mood. It was raining and it was cold. Very cold. He drove into the parking area of the estate where he lived and as usual for a Sunday, there were no spaces available. Every Sunday evening these Adejobi's would hold a service in the Tenants Association Hall and fill all the parking spaces. It really pissed Wapi off. Why couldn't they hold their services elsewhere? He was determined not to park outside on the main road, so he pulled up and waited for someone to leave.

All Wapi wanted was to get indoors, take a hot bath then maybe get some food, but most of all he wanted to get to bed. He'd left home at six this morning in order to catch a train to Watford in time for a company training day. Being a Financial Services Consultant he was always either working or attending meetings and seminars to do with work. One of his least favourite aspectsof the job was the frequent scheduling of courses ans seminars on Sundays. Although unafraid of hard work, Wapi had sought permission to miss this particular session and stay home with his girlfriend Marva who was due to deliver their first child in just over a week. Permission had not been denied, just granted in such a way that made him realise it was in his best interest to turn up.

It had seemed a pleasant day when Wapi had left home in the morning. So much so that he'd left his overcoat in the back of his car at the station in London and boarded the train in just his business suit. Several hours later when leaving the training centre, it was much colder. He'd had to wait a half hour for a bus in Watford, and a further twenty minutes for a train once at the station, and the cold had cut right through him. His ears fingers and toes felt brittle with cold. The worst though was that he had two cavities he'd not yet taken to the dentist. The northerly wind had discovered these and taken up residence in them. Wapi wished himself dead. He cursed himself for breaking the cardinal riule: "Don't ever trust the weather in England."

A lady opened the door to her hatchback and got in. Wapi watched dispassionately as she struggled to get out of the space. When she'd gone, he parked and went indoors. The relief was enormous. Whatever he could say about council estates, Wapi was all for the efficient heating system in this one. The heating, and Marva's warm embrace, did much to combat the chill in his bones.

"Go to bed Wapi." He opened his eyes. last he could remember he'd bathed and snuggled up to Marva Plus (as he called her ever since her "bump" became obvious) on the sofa, and she'd been telling him how excited her mother was about her forthcoming grandchild. "Grandma" had spent a small fortune on things for the baby and would have induced birth now if she had her own way, such was her impatience. Wapi had meant to listen. In fact he had been listening and had no clue at which point he'd dozed off or for how long. He didn't argue. He hauled himself off to bed leaving Marva watching an episode of Prisoner Cell Block H.

Wapi had barely been sleeping half an hour when Marva eased into bed beside him. He'd regained enough consciousness to make room for her and was heading rapidly back to dreamland. "Wapi..." Her voice was gentle but there was a note in it that brought him wide awake instantly. His head cleared and he knew this was all systems go. He got up and switched on the light. marva got out of bed again and stood looking a little bewildered. The bottom half of her nightie was soaked as was part of the bed where she'd lain. "Your...you..." croaked Wapi. "My waters broke," Marva reassured him. Wapi dived for the wardrobe emerging with Marva's packed weekend case. It had been ready since their ante-natal class on preparedness. "How are you feeling? Hurry up." Wapi was guiding Marva towards the door. "Wapi wait. Let me get out of this wet thing."

Wapi was anxious to get going but remembered the advice his friend Glenroy had given him. "Man, when they are in labour, you weanna keep your mouth shut son. Just keep it shut." Wapi respected this advice as it came from a man who, though younger than him, had already fathered four children. He might have been less impressed had he realised that Glenroy had been nowhere near the maternity ward for any of those four births.

Wapi didn't really notice whether there was traffic on the roads. He had no fear of being pulled over for speeding tonight. What cop could possibly ticket him under such circumstances? During the journey he went over in his mind all they'd learned and discussed over the last few months. He and Marva had been to all the ante-natal classes and the male supporting role had been greatly emphasised. They were both keen on as natural a birth as possible, with as little technology as was safe. As he drove, he'd looked over at Marva and ask, "Are you feeling ok?" or "What's happening now?" or "Why are you so quiet.?" Marva almost felt sorry for him. Almost. "Men,' she thought. "God knew what he was doing by limiting their contribution to the conception part." They had no clue at this stage of proceedings. She hoped he would calm down when he saw his daughter. Wapi would prefer a boy, Marva a girl but neither felt too strongly about it. They had both agreed to avoid scans though so they wouldn't know until the child was born.

Labour itself seemed a tremendous letdown for Wapi. The adrenalin that had kept him going began to lose effect by hour four. By 5AM he was tired, frustrated and irritable. He knew Marva wasn't prolonging things delivberately but he sure wished she'd get a move on. He was sure that if childbirth had been a male function, men would have evolved more efficient ways of doing it.

Marva had now begun to feel a great deal of discomfort and was making alot of noise. Wapi heard the midwife offer "something to ease the pain." He had felt quite useless throughout and saw an opportunity to be of service. He surprised himself with the boldness with which he approached the medic, " We've discussed that and we don't want anythi..." "Drugs, give me the damn drugs!" The words were coming from Marva but the voice didn't sound like hers. It was a voice that brooked no argument. Wapi remembered Glenroy's advice and kept his mouth shut.

The medical staff now seemed to have escalated their activity around Marva. Wapi was up by her head, holding her hand. Actually it was Marva holding his hand. Very tightly. Wapi decided it was not the right time to complain of his discomfort, and took the pain like a man. Fingernails and all.

"push now! Come on push!" The midwife was calm and encouraging. "I can see the head. There's a good girl. Now push!" Marva sounded like a mad woman. Wapi could not believe the colourful language that was coming out of her. He was embarrassed for her in front of all these people. He was surprised that none of them batted an eyelid.

The midwife raised herself from her working position with a parcel in her hands and addressed Wapi. Wapi felt faint. "Would you like to cut your daughters cord Mr. Johnson?" Wapi nodded and tried to answer but his voice wasn't working. he cut the cord and felt fainter still. He flopped into a chair at the side breathing heavily. The medics were still busy and Marva was still cursing. Wapi was puzzled. Wasn't the child born already? The midwife emerged again. With another parcel. Wapi passed out where he sat.

When he came to, the medics were still busy at one end of Marva. At the other she wore a big if exhausted smileand had a child in each arm. Meet your daughter Mr. Johnson," she said, "and meet your son." "Well done, " Wapi said insufficiently, "Thanks. Hello Taiwo, hello Kehinde. Una kabor." Then the tears welled in his eyes.