Music Living for Live - Sierra Leone’s f irst major live music festival targets 10,000 fans a day Three years ago a small group of young Sierra Leonean musicians formed a not-for-profit organisation to encourage live music in Sierra Leone, where it is more common for artists to mime or sing over CDs. They called themselves Freetown Uncut and started their campaign by organising occasional live performances in bars and clubs around Freetown. This year, they are planning the biggest live music spectacular Sierra Leone has ever experienced – a two-day event on the 23rd and 24th April, which will attract over 10,000 people a day. The Freetown Music Festival is being held in association with the National Tourist Board of Sierra Leone. It forms part of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day festivities and is intended as a celebration of Sierra Leone’s resilience in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak. Tom Cairnes, one of the people behind the event, says: “Following months of negative headlines, we will demonstrate the wealth of music and culture that Sierra Leone has to celebrate. There are a number of other festivals in Sierra Leone. Madeng, for example, is a great cultural festival that everyone in Sierra Leone should go to. We think the Freetown Music Festival can add to this movement by focusing on showcasing live music.” The idea came when Tom Cairnes visited the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2014. He thought that Sierra Leone should have something similar. If all goes to plan, the Freetown Music Festival will become an annual event attracting artists and visitors from across the world; and generating considerable revenue for the country’s hotels and hospitality sector, as well as funds to support young musicians in Sierra Leone. Festival headliners, such as the country’s best selling artists - Block Jones and Dallas B, will play on the main stage on Freetown’s Lumley Beach; the objective being to make the festival open to everyone in the country. In addition, ticketed VIP events will be held at Lumley beach night spots such as Papaya, O-Bar and Chez Nous. Led by Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s music business is booming, with data on its contribution to economic growth beginning to emerge. And in the UK and US festivals have come to dominate the music industry. If it is a success the Freetown Music Festival could do a lot for Sierra Leone’s embryonic music industry. “There is a huge amount of musical talent in Sierra Leone that people aren’t listening to,” says Tom Cairnes. “We hope this festival will give them an opportunity to showcase their talent and tell a positive story about the country.” Freetown Music Festival 2016 23rd & 24th April Lumley Beach Entry: Le 5,000 Freetown Uncut is a non-profit organisation that supports local musicians in Sierra Leone, providing scholarships to artists to support them write, record and perform their music and working with world-class partners to promote their music in the region and internationally.
FT Insight 29 www.ftinsight.net