Sierra Leone: elections and Frank Ocean

Sierra Leone is today holding Presidential and legislative elections.  There are nine Presidential candidates, including the incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma.  Sierra Leone is struggling to alleviate poverty in the wake of its brutal, diamond-fueled civil war which ended a decade ago.

While policy issues such as health (which Koroma is judged to have done well on) and employment (on which he has failed to make headway) have played a role in the lead up to the election, there are also significant ethnic loyalties at play.  Despite that, there has been little violence during the campaign period, and if the country can pull of a peaceful election that is seen to be fair it will be a significant achievement: this is Sierra Leone’s third election since the end of the war and history shows that new democracies are particularly vulnerable during their first twenty years.

In keeping with the theme of tenuous links this blog is pretty much built on, today’s elections seem good enough reason to post Frank Ocean’s song ‘Sierra Leone’.

 

I’ve just discovered Frank Ocean. He is a very timely reminder of how good R&B can be. He follows the path of Prince and Andre 3000: the songs are smooth, intelligent, often odd and almost always about sex.  ‘Sierra Leone’ is no exception on any of these counts.

While ‘Sierra Leone’ is apolitical, Frank Ocean did make a big political statement this year when he came out as bisexual.  This was considered a big deal because of the macho hip-hop world he inhabits.  Ocean’s music is not really hip-hop but he collaborates with many hip-hop artists, including Jay-Z and Kanye West.  His coming out was then something akin to an elite rugby or Australian rules football player coming out – the latter still has not happened, even among retirees (to my knowledge).

Below is the amazing ‘Pyramids’, a ten-minute epic with three distinct movements (including a closing guitar solo).  Elements of the production grate for me personally (such as the computerisation of his voice in parts) but it really doesn’t matter, it is just so good.

 

 

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