TAKING INTOLERANCE A SHADE TOO FAR - WHAT'S IN EMMERSON'S SONG?
It's somewhat refreshing to note that all the brouhaha over the Emerson song, "Yesterday Betteh Pass Tiday" (Literarily - The past is better than the present) has now died down and that those who used every opportunity from newspaper articles through online depictions have now realised the foolishness of their ways and would now settle to addressing the many problems Sierra Leoneans face in their own God-given piece of Planet Earth.
It was unbelievable, quite an eye-opener to the many watchers who could have been asking questions relating to learning the lessons from the past - a past that saw many brutally murdered, raped, mutilated, dispossessed and traumatised in an eleven-year conflagration that need not have happened had those in power then harkened to the voice of the ruled/oppressed who were getting out of non-peaceful methods of telling the government that things were getting beyond ordinary human endurance. They repeatedly called on those in authority to change their ways and make things better for the suffering masses, but those messages got the kind of treatment the proverbial duck gave to water when thrown on the feathered creature's back.
The rulers then developed "hardened hearts" and "deaf ears" to the cries of the people.
Even as some ruling APC party supporters then joined the rising tide of people venting out expressions of fears about the mounting anger and pleas of the masses, those in authority would, as a slap to the people, order new makes of Pajero models for ministers, their deputies and other functionaries in a system where the Secretary-General one E T Kamara was being paid a full government minister's salary and enjoyed from the fruits of the massive corruption that had become a trade sign of the Siaka Stevens and Momoh regimes.
Any voice raised in concern was treated as being in opposition to the one-party monster as even APC party members found to their chagrin, if they lived to tell the story!!!
And it got to a point where any popular song that did not sound good in the ears of the APC party bigwigs and their praise singers would receive an instant ban on the national broadcasting system, the SLBS!!!
And if you think the kind of music banned was of those imported, think again and surviving members of the APC Youth League as well as the Central Committee of the APC Politburo (Oh yes, we had all of them) will tell you just why they banned Afro National's "Arata Poison".
This nice piece of music in fact had no word, no lyric as the musicians say and was all instrumental creating the right atmosphere for partying and an oasis of joy that allowed the downtrodden to briefly forget about the worsening politico-social and economic conditions.
It was banned because the authorities then had been labelled by the suffering masses as "tiff arata dem" thieving rats and they saw the arata poison song as a message to the masses that they should use a rat poison to eliminate them...and they did not like such a message.
Even harmless folk singers like the late Ebenezer Calendar came under the spotlight of a government that was getting increasingly paranoid. His song - Fire day cam or to give it its title "Fire Fire Fire" was seen by the oppressors as a hint that a kind of revolutionary fire ignited by the people will destroy them!!!
Among other songs banned by the authorities then, not to be played by the SLBS was one singing about just how bad things were getting with the masses finding it increasingly difficult to have food in their stomach every day. The lyrics sent a message of how things were getting worse by the minute.
SLBS employees and those listening to the national broadcaster can recall the venom that was spewed when people started singing these songs at social gatherings and none attracted so much venom as a song the lyrics of which called for the changing of the "dread system". It was interpreted as a call to arms, a call for the masses to rise and overthrow their tormentors. Thus did "System Dread" become another victim. System Dread
And now to the Emerson bit.
This young man merely did what others have done before like the one and only Daddy Saj who had crafted the acclaimed hit "Corruption ee do so" pointing accusing fingers at the then rather uncaring and inept government of the SLPP led by former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.
He went on to compose others which gave Sierra Leoneans catch phrases like Borbor Belleh etc. All knew who were being targeted in those songs ranging from the President himself, his close advisers and aides, ministers and all those thought to be benefiting from the massive corruption that was there for all to see never mind the denials.
Trust Sierra Leoneans when they get fed-up. The tunes were on the lips of many who wanted to send a message to the Tejan Kabbah administration. They apparently did not listen. Those words fell on deaf ears and this could well have led to the people deciding that a peaceful change of government at the polls was the only way out.
Less than two years of the Ernest Bai Koroma administration, things began to surface which appeared to show that the much hoped-for change was not in evidence and that people were again becoming restless because of what they perceived as increased corruption.
Emerson was there again to remind the Ernest Bai Koroma government to get things on track as he had promised or face the wrath of the people at the polls. It was a wake-up call that was meant to get Ernest Bai Koroma and his associates to get their act together.
As in the banning days of old and realising that using those old repressive tactics would just not work in 21st century Sierra Leone, the worms and slimy vermin of every description came out of the sewers, the depths of the slime pit, hurling condemnation after condemnation and one would have almost agreed that had it been the days of the "comrades" in power, poor Emerson would have been eliminated either physically or face a treason charge for inciting the people to rebellion!!!
The late Ambrose Ganda did a piece on why Sierra Leonean musicians long for the past - especially a past which they as individuals perceived to have been better.
Using this headline - A DESIRE TO BE RE-COLONISED, OR SIMPLY A CASE OF NOSTALGIA AND POPULAR DESPERATION? he wrote
The Emerson brouhaha made quite an interesting observation. Interesting and even alarming.
The Press Attache at Sierra Leone's High Commission in London, paid out of government funds and in that post to promote all things Sierra Leonean took upon himself to write an article in which he seemed pleased, very pleased that a concert planned by a compatriot, a fellow Sierra Leonean to boot, had failed rejoicing in the man's purported failure!!! For him Emerson's apparent failure was a "News Flash: Emerson embarrassed in London!"
No weapon was spared in the condemnation of a Sierra Leonean who dared express his thoughts in song.
Personal attacks became the favoured route of the praise singers who are now daring to raise their heads above the parapets.
Where is Eddie Turay when you need him? To remind the new spoilers and yalibahs of those days that raising the flag of the APC was almost a treasonable matter with the military ready to clamp down if not ban the party - after they were overthrown by their own boys in the military who got green cards from party members before they can join the national army.
The wives of serving officers and party cadres also extended the largesse to their concubines and associates and became recruiting officers for the country's national army which had at the time become a party army.
One invention labelled Side Judge or whatever railed "Emerson: The Clannish and Tribal Bigot" while another in the same mould wrote "Emerson did much damage to his reputation as a person and a musician"
And all because of a song thought to be critical of the Ernest Bai Koroma gang.
The Sierra Herald will end this piece with a reminder that it was this kind of intolerance of the past that led to Sierra Leone's economic and near-total ruin and which unleashed an 11-year war in a country where criticism of the government was seen as treason and where all those who saw things as they really were and spoke out were either physically eliminated or forced to flee their motherland.
PS - We have just been informed that the spoilers and yalibahs have been spitting phlegm and other unwholesome muck typical of their kind that we failed to "honour" their "award-winning" and "trained, qualified and internationally-acclaimed journalists". What?