Janka Nabay, 54, Dies; Carried an African Dance Music Worldwide


As a teenager he began writing politically minded songs about pan-Africanism. He was also a fan of music from abroad, particularly that of Bob Marley and Michael Jackson, and he concentrated on reggae during his 20s, appearing on Sierra Leone radio stations singing reggae with Arabic lyrics.

But his more distinctive songs drew on bubu, music heard at celebrations during Sierra Leone’s Independence Day carnival and during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Traditional bubu is associated with the Temne people of Sierra Leone. It is music for voices, drums and bamboo trumpets that each play one note (sounding like the syllable “bu”), hooting in complex patterns of syncopation, akin to the rara music of Haiti and the gaga music of the Dominican Republic. Mr. Nabay traced bubu to…

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