Kondi Band-Salone.

Label: Strut.

The story behind the Kondi Band’s latest album Salone is a heartening one, and one that could only have happened in the internet age. Sorie Kondi is a blind street musician from Freetown, Sierra Leone . He plays the thumb piano in the streets of Freetown, and often locals and tourists stop to listen to him play. Many come away clutching copies of Sorie Kondi’s cassette albums. By then, they’ve discovered through talking to Sorie Kondi, whose a sociable, engaging and interesting man, that he has his own website. This website was where an American DJ and producer made contact with Sorie Kondi.

This was US producer, DJ Chief Boima, who also happens to be able trace his roots to Sierra Leone. One day, DJ Chief Boima came across a video of one of Sorie Kondi’s songs. DJ Chief Boima takes up the story: “Sorie Kondi is a blind musician with a will to thrive like no person I have met before…My work with him began with a YouTube link. I spotted the video for his track Without Money No Family and was struck by his beautiful vocals and socially conscious lyrics. These incredible melodies he was playing on his namesake thumb piano (kondi) sealed the deal: I immediately decided to remix it.” 

Little did DJ Chief Boima realise the effect his bootleg remix would have. Suddenly, it started to feature on DJ playlists and there was even an article in The Fader magazine. This resulted in Sorie Kondi’s manager in Freetown contacting DJ Chief Boima. The next step was to bring Sorie Kondi to America.

To do this, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to fund Sorie Kondi’s journey to America. The Kickstarter campaign proved successful, with ninety backers pledging $3,562 to the Get Sorie Kondi To South By Southwest. Soon, Sorie Kondi was on his way to America for the first time. However, this wasn’t a social visit.

Instead, Sorie Kondi was about to embark upon a five date American tour. He also found time to record some new songs that made their debut on the Kondi Band’s debut album. It’s an album where two cultures unite.

DJ Chief Boima explains: “This album forges a direct link between techno born in the black cities of the American Mid-West, where I grew up, and roots African music…Sorie Kondi may be playing an acoustic folk instrument from Sierra Leone, but he thinks about music as if he were a techno producer with the dance-friendly pulse of his cajon drum, the spiralling melody lines from the thumb piano and his incredible vocals.” Producing Salone which was released by Strut on ‘2nd’ June 2017 was DJ Chief Boima.

There’s an intricacy to DJ Chief Boima’s production style. He adds a variety of electronic sounds to the mix, which prior to that, was underrated and spacious. It consists of just Sorie Kondi’s vocal and the drum piano. This less is more sound works, so it’s important not to overload the mix. Space has to be left in the mix for Sorie Kondi’s vocal, which plays a leading role as he delivers twelve new songs.

These songs were written by Sorie Kondi, and some of them  are very personal. Especially Thank You Mama song that he dedicates to his mother, and where Sorie Kondi thanks her for loving him even though he was born blind. The anthem Without Money, No Family is a song about how even a family can be a privilege. On other songs on Salone, there is an immediacy and poignancy to the lyrics. However, the lyrics to other songs are uncompromising and tackle social problems that blight Sierra Leone. This includes the problem of child prostitution, which is dealt with on Girl Service. Then on Belle Wahalla, Sorie Kondi uses stomach pain as a metaphor for poverty, hunger, and lack of financial opportunity. Just like so many songs on Salone, it’s a powerful song from the pen of Sorie Kondi. He played a huge part in the sound and success of the Kondi Band’s debut album Salone. 

Sorie Kondi wrote the twelve songs, plays thumb piano and takes charge of the lead vocals on Salone. DJ Chief Boima, the other member of the Kondi Band, produced Salone. The Kondi Band’s much-anticipated debut album Salone is the perfect introduction to a truly talented singer, songwriter and musician… Sorie Kondi.

As Yeanoh opens Salone, the words “sorry God” reverberate before a thumb piano combines with slow, deliberate drums. They set the scene for Sorie Kondi’s heartfelt, soulful vocal. Sometimes, it briefly becomes dubby, but always it’s impassioned and soulful as it takes centre-stage. Meanwhile, DJ Chief Boima’s arrangement is understated, with percussion, drums and the thumb piano providing the backdrop for the vocal. Later, synths replace the vocal as the drums provide the heartbeat. Soon, though, Sorie Kondi returns and scats, as this carefully crafted song takes shape and sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

Straight away, Belle Wahalla sounds as if it’s been designed with the dance-floor in mind. Drums pound, a synth groans and growl, while Sorie Kondi plays thumb piano and adds the vocal. Here, he uses stomach pain as a metaphor for poverty, hunger, and lack of financial opportunity. His vocal is impassioned and full of frustration. Meanwhile, the arrangement features stabs of braying horns, crisp drums courtesy of drum machine, a sultry saxophone and a buzzing, pulsating bass synth. It’s omnipresent and at the heart of an arrangement that’s dance-floor friendly song with a social conscience. 

Thank You Mama has a much more understated introduction, with Sorie Kondi playing thumb piano and thanking his mother for loving him, even though he was born blind. Soon, washes of synths are added while drums scrabble and gallop along. Along with the synths, they play a prominent part in the arrangement, adding a degree of drama and urgency. However, it’s Sorie Kondi’s that plays a leading role as he delivers one of his most heartfelt and impassioned vocals.

On Titi Dem Too Service, thunderous drums pound and gallop along, while the thumb piano matches it every step of the way. Soon, they’re joined by another joyous, powerful and soulful vocal from Sorie Kondi. It soars high above the arrangement. Sometimes, Sorie Kondi answers his own call, while synths squeak and drums power the arrangement along. They all play their part in another carefully crafted and irresistible track.

Just a lone thumb piano opens Don Don Mi Money before drums and stabs of synths usher in Sorie Kondi’s tender, thoughtful vocal. Meanwhile, the arrangement slowly reveals its secrets. Instruments are added, but care is taken not to overpower the vocal. Instead, the arrangement frames the vocal, and compliments it as eventually, the songs reveals its subtleties and surprises.

Thogolingo Dembi Na opens with the thumb piano ushering in Sorie Kondi’s impassioned vocal. Soon, drums are added and drive the arrangement along. They’ve been mixed back in the arrangement so they don’t overpower Sorie Kondi as he adds the lead vocal and harmonies. As the drums sit further back, the thumb piano sits at the front of the mix, and at one point, enjoy their moment in the sun as Sorie Kondi plays a solo. Before long, he returns, and is accompanied by harmonies which add a spiritual sound to a song that’s soulful and thanks to the drums, dance-floor friendly.

Drums probe while the thumb piano plays and Sorie Kondi adds a soliloquy on You Wan Married? Soon, squelchy synths are added accompany Sorie Kondi’s rueful vocal. Harmonies answer Sorie Kondi’s call and are the perfect foil for the vocal. Meanwhile drums crack and synths probe and pulsate. However, the thumb piano is the only reminder of Sorie Kondi’s musical heritage. He continues to deliver one of finest, and most emotive vocals, thanks in part to the harmonies which are yin to Sorie Kondi’s yang.

As the thumb piano plays, hi-hats hiss on Geibai Gpanga Ne  Gna. Soon, Sorie Kondi is delivering his vocal, and is accompanied by harmonies. When they drop out, drums are added. The drummer adds the heartbeat, while synth pulsate as the thumb piano accompanies Sorie Kondi and the harmonies. Both are heartfelt, soulful and have a spiritual quality. Soon, a wash of synth adds a degree of tension before stabs of horns are added. So too is a bass synth, as gradually, one of the best tracks on Salone takes shapes.

Kondi Instrumental is a showcase for Sorie Kondi’s thumb piano. It’s unmistakable sound takes centre-stage as master musician showcases his considerable talents.

Without Money, No Family is another song with a message. Sorie Kondi’s message is that even a family can be a privilege. As the song unfolds, synths dance, drums crack and combines with the thumb piano as stabs of a dubby vocal flit in and out of the arrangement. Soon, a bass rumbles ominously as Sorie Kondi seems to tease the listener. Eventually, at 1.29 his vocal enters and he delivers his message.Meanwhile, the bass rumbles, synths dance with joy, drums crack and harmonies are added. Although Sorie Kondi’s vocal is slow, impassioned and soulful, the multilayered arrangement is quick, hypnotic and dance-floor friendly. It’s all part of this anthemic celebration of family life.

Straight away, two cultures unite on Thogolobea. Drums, bass and thumb piano provide a backdrop for Sorie Kondi, whose accompanied by a choir. They answer his call, as horns bray and an irresistible songs starts to unfold. By then, the mix seems almost, perfect. Anything more would be overkill. Still, stabs of a phat synths are added. Later, so are swirling, whooshing, atmospheric synths. Fortunately, they don’t upset the musical apple cart, as this was already a joyous and irresistible track without their addition.

Closing Salone is Y’alimamy, where drums pound and crack, while the thumb piano plays. They usher in Sorie Kondi’s powerful, impassioned vocal, which is accompanied by a growling bass synth. A choir accompanies Sorie Kondi and answer his call When the vocal drops out, the growling, pulsating bass synth, keyboards, drum machine and thumb piano take centre-stage. They  then accompany Sorie Kondi as the choir provides the perfect accompaniment to his vocal, which grows in power and passion. Meanwhile, synths judder, the bass synth beeps and buzzes and provides a contrast to the vocal and harmonies. So do a glacial synth and crisp drums. However, Sorie Kondi’s impassioned vocal and the heartfelt harmonies steal the show and play leading roles in the song that closes Salone.

It’s never easy to combine two the music from two disparate cultures. There is always the risk that the music of one culture will dominate the other. However, on Salone which was released their debut album Salone on Strut on ‘2nd’ June 2017, Sorie Kondi and DJ Chief Boima are equal partners. 

While DJ Chief Boima produced the album, Sorie Kondi’s vocal steals the show on the album. They’re captivating and the listener will find themselves hanging on his every word. Sorie Kondi’s vocals range from heartfelt and impassioned to joyous. Sometimes, though, his vocals are full of sadness and frustration as he deals with subjects like child prostitution and poverty. In dealing with these subjects, Sorie Kondi provides a voice for the disadvantaged, disenfranchised and victims of crime and poverty. Other songs are joyous, uplifting, hook-laden and dance-floor friendly. Anthems sit beside songs with a social message on Salone, a carefully crafted debut album that thirty years ago, wouldn’t have been made.

Back then, there was no such thing as the internet, and making music was very different. Fortunately, DJ Chief Boima and Sorie Kondi live in the internet age. It was the internet brought the Kondi band together. DJ Chief Boima came across the video to Without Money No Family on You Tube. This was the start of a friendship that lead to the formation of the Kondi Band and of the recording of their debut album Salone. It’s an internet age album, that showcases The Kondi Band, which features DJ Chief Boima and Sorie Kondi, who are from very different backgrounds. However, they bonded over their shared love of music and have created the Kondi Band’s captivating, thought-provoking and uplifting album of create genre-melting, multicultural music, Salone.

Kondi Band-Salone.

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