The new sweet sound of palm wine music from Sierra Leone

Not since the late, great SE Rogie, has there been any new and notable recording of the enchanting palm wine guitar style of music from Sierra Leone. Guitarist extraordinaire, Abdul Tee-Jay, best known as leader of the electric Sierra Leone dance music group Rokoto, has gone back to his roots and picked up the mantle of the former greats to record a stunning album of palm wine music. ‘Palm Wine a Go Go’ features new versions and arrangements of palm wine classics, that takes the music into new territory. Abdul’s fluid acoustic guitar and expressive voice are accompanied by a variety of percussion, including the simple bottle, stool bass drum and shaker. These are augmented by kongoma (thumb piano), pennywhistle, plus harmonica and banjo (courtesy of all round good ‘bloke’ and friend of Mustapha, Ben Mandelson) and beautiful male and female backing vocals by fellow Sierra Leonians, Tess Deloes and Ali Kamara.

Abdul Tee-Jay grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone, listening to the lilting sounds of palm wine guitar. Until now however, he’s never had the chance to record those songs that inspired him to become a musician in the first place. Perhaps it was a good thing he had to wait. ‘Palm Wine a Go-Go’ is a combination of not just those formative years, but other experiences and influences since. Now, those palm wine songs come stamped with Abdul’s own creativity and originality.

Abdul first picked up a guitar when he was nine, and listened to the music of palm wine legend SE Rogie, the local Sierra Leone street music, ‘milo jazz’, highlife music from Nigeria and Ghana, Bembeya Jazz from Guinea, and Congolese soukous. After sitting in with local bands in Freetown, he moved to West Virginia, America, in 1974 where he studied and played music (including with Appalachian hillbilly musicians) for five years before moving to London. After playing in various bands, including African Connection and African Culture, in 1988 he formed the groundbreaking Rokoto, with the mission to evolve a modern Sierra Leonian music. At the height of the initial ‘World Music’ boom, Rokoto achieved considerable success, touring the world and playing to packed houses and releasing three acclaimed albums, the latest, E'Go Lef Pan You in 1997.

This is Abdul’s first recorded work since then, although he has been wanting to make this album for many years. Like palm wine itself, these songs have long been fermenting in the mind of Abdul, maturing, developing, and now very definitely, are ready for public consumption.

Abdul Tee-Jay is based in the UK and is available for interviews. Please contact us for photographs and further information.

Distribution by Stern’s Music, tel. (44) (0)20 7388-5533, fax (44) (0)20 7388-2756