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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge

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Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!


Musician: Usifu Jalloh

Location: London

Instruments: percussion/voice

Music: Sierra Leonian / High Life / Kumbe

HOW I CAME TO THIS MUSIC          WHERE I PLAY          A FAVOURITE SONG Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story


Listen  Listen (45'21") to Usifu Jalloh perform live in the World on your Street tent at Womad 2002.

Listen  Listen (3'42) to Maambena Gedda performed by Usifu

Listen  Listen (1'47) to Usifu talk about his music

"The style of music I play is High Life or Kumbe music. I've learnt other styles, but I love to play High Life - it's nice upbeat music, pop music in the traditional sense"

How I came to this music

I come from Sierra Leone. I was born in the north, on the border between Sierra Leone and Guinea, in a very vibrant commercial town called Kamkwie.

My dad loved all kinds of music - he used to play Jim Reeves and Otis Reading records - and Usifu Jalloh there was a lot of music around in the community. So I grew up with music and always loved dancing, drumming and singing, but I don't come from a traditional Griot family (Griots are the historians of a village or town, the keepers of the community's history).

My dad was a soldier; I grew up in the barracks. As a schoolboy I was interested in break-dancing and body popping, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the music that was coming in, like Rap and Hip-Hop, Bony-M and Michael Jackson - he was a big hero.

At my secondary school, St Edwards, I started the first Theatre Company in a school in Sierra Leone and we toured around schools performing. Then Dennis Nelson Streeter invited me to join Tabule Theatre in Freetown and that's where my semi-formal training started. I got a scholarship and went to Detroit, Michigan to train more in acting - then from Detroit I came to England by mistake! I lost my passport and ticket while transiting from Heathrow to Gatwick to catch my flight back to Sierra Leone. By the time I found them I'd made up my mind I'd stay. If I had gone back to Sierra Leone I probably would have become a Cadet Officer - I wouldn't be alive now that's for sure!

I came to London and slept in the street and begged a little for money - it was a very interesting life. Then I started to bump into friends I'd performed with in Sierra Leone and joined one or two productions they were working on, and my life picked up from there. I joined Zurya Theatre Company and they introduced me to theatre and education in England.

Now I perform on my own quite a lot, but I also have a traditional dance troupe called Maambena. They do a lot of traditional African dances from places like Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone.

The style of music I play is High Life - or in Sierra Leone we might say Kumbe music. I've learnt other styles of music, but I love to play High Life - it's nice upbeat music, pop music in the traditional sense.

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