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Strummerville open up music studio in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Earlier this year we embarked on a project to set up a recoding studio on behalf of WAYout project. We were lucky enough to have James Adams, a very talented multi-instrumentalist, who offered to head over to Freetown and set up the studio, train people how to use and maintain it.

We would like to share with you this a letter from James, in his own words:

“I wanted to let you know how much of a success this project was/is. With the equipment we sent out, we had just about the best studio in Freetown and people were coming from all over to check it out. Everyone was really impressed by the fact that we had live instruments and that we were able to record them.

Before going I didn’t fully understand how little live music was played in Sierra Leone. Lots of people were coming to the studio claiming they were musicians but mostly were rappers and none had any knowledge of instruments.

I was constantly asking for anyone who was playing any kind of music and came across ‘Supercombo’ who are all in their 70s and have been playing since the 60s. They play once a week at a venue not far from the studio and attract an older crowd….the young guys dismiss it as old timers music and favour the US style hip hop/RnB. All Supercombo’s instruments are on loan from government officials. I convinced them to come and record 3 tracks in the studio…to give them a recording and me a way to teach the WaYout guys how to use the studio.

I also found a guy with a guitar who turned out to be a Ghanaian musician, waiting to play a wedding gig. He was an awesome guitarist and I got him in to record a track. I was hoping to set him up as a guitar teacher there….but he was a much better player than he was teacher and I had difficulties getting him to commit.

At the same time I was taken to meet the Blackstreet family who Hazel had been working on engaging. They are a large street gang, once very violent and feared but now more interested in peace and music. They had what turned out to be a whole album they wanted to record and had been given a CD of backing tracks by an English contact.

So we had a mega busy 5 weeks with great things happening. The old guys and young guys had a taste of each others music and appreciated how each others tracks were coming together. I taught the students all I could about producing, recording, mixing, mastering and studio maintenance. A few of them were learning piano with me, a couple on drums and one on bass and one on guitar. We did a weekly music workshop with everyone which was always fun.

It was incredible for me to see how much use was being had out of this studio….and how much it meant to people. The quality of sound production in general in Sierra Leone is so poor…most of the NGOs and government organisations source that kind of work from abroad. I started to see potential for these guys at WAYout to be able to pitch for this kind of work in the near future. Hazel went back out there recently and said they’re looking after and running it so well. They’re doing work for an organisation campaigning for peaceful elections and continue to record local artists. They still have a way to go with their knowledge to be able to pitch for work confidently….and they all need to develop musical understanding to produce and mix effectively. I hope to be able to go back out there and continue the work someday. Something really great has been started and there is a lot of buzz around the studio now.”

If you get a moment to have a look, James has put some of the recordings he made and pics to go with them up on his website – click here

We would like to offer a massive thank you to James and to everyone involved in this amazing project. Strummerville are very proud to have been involved and we can’t wait to hear more music from Freetown!

Strummerville x

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Without People You’re Nothing – Joe Strummer

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