The studio was set up in August 2012. We sent over instruments, software, computers and James Adams to teach the locals how to use the programmes like Logic.
It is in use 7 days a week 12 hours a day. The daytimes are booked out by street youth and disadvantaged young people. In the evenings the guys who act as engineers, create the beats and generally help other get to do their own music. There have been youngsters recording tracks to promote peace, not violence in the elections. Once track was snapped up by the National Commission for Democracy and another WAYout regular, Clergyman, had 100 people in the studio recording a ‘vote no violence’ track. So in a way the studio has contributed to peaceful elections.
In Sierra Leone live instruments are coming back. During the conflict most instruments were destroyed and it has taken time for young people to get access to guitars and keyboards and start playing again.
They try and encourage young women into the studio but it is predominantly guys but they do outreach visits into street gangs and slums to try and teach out to women.
100’s of tracks have been recorded since the studio opened it’s doors, many by street youth, some traditional and now a growing number of female artists. The reputation of the work WAYout are doing has spread far and wide, Al Jazeera asked them to run a competition for a song about fishing for their pirate fishing campaign with the Environmental Justice Foundation, Street Child have asked for music by street youth for a documentary and the Sierra Leone Tourist Board asked if they wanted to showcase any musicians at a festival they put on, there is never any budget but it spreads the word and gives opportunities.
One of the bands in the studio are the Black Street Family who were once a notorious bunch of criminals who everyone was afraid of. Through their music and the fact of being taken seriously by someone and being given the opportunity they have turned their lives around and now people approach them and accept them back into the community. The have had reports of young people being able to go back home because they feel they can show they have achieved something.
Komba, had his hand blown off when he was five. His mother couldnt look after him and he took to the streets. Now 18, he recorded his first track “Diamond Briefcase” earlier this year and went home to Kono to see his mother for the first time in years. He has since recorded two more tracks and one of the other street boys made a video for one of them.
His mother has now persuaded him to get off the streets, go home and return to school, because he could show her he was worth something. There are many stories like Komba’s and we have a long list of young artists waiting to come into the studio- it is the only place in Sierra Leone that is free and can offer live music recording. In December it looked like the studio may have to shut down as the two engineers trained by James who had been working tirelessly only received a small amount of money to live on. And although very grateful for the training given were looking for paid work. Strummerville raised £4000 via the ‘Save Our Studio’ appeal in September 2013 which was enough to save the studio and keep the engineers who get paid $150 each per month.
WAYout moved home and rebuilt the studio in August. Within the hour of our signing the lease, the drums had beaten and about 50 street youth turned up to clean and carry and turn it into their new home. It was very touching the way they worked and took ownership. If you watch to the end you will see the new studio and Strummerville equipment.
In September WAYout asked Strummerville for help once more. Due to the Ebola crisis they found themselves feeding the street youth and because of the various lock downs have been acting as a shelter. This is not because of the virus but because of the reaction to it. Public areas such as clubs, markets and cafes are all closed. These are the areas where the street youth were able to hustle a living, carrying loads or cleaning up after the market. They are doing their best to help. The laptop has also given up the ghost now. It is more important than ever to be able to offer hope and purpose to their members.
Despite all this, the studio has continued to make music and we recorded an Ebola awareness song which has been approved by major health charity GOAL and UNFAO. It plays on Sierra Leone radio stations and you can hear it here https://soundcloud.com/wayout-1