Royal Wedding: Kanneh-Mason Shone but Needs More Support
By Abdul Suhood Komeh,
FACT: A lot of the people sharing photos of the British-Sierra Leonean musician, Sheku Kanneh-Mason from Harry and Meghan’s wedding would not pay a penny to see him perform. Even if the show was held in their living-rooms. Let alone out of cultural curiosity in response to an advert for an event featuring the Kanneh-Mason family, to which he belongs, at a venue like say, the Royal Albert Hall.
Typically, Sheku (pictured) performed at a royal wedding and he replaces the flag as the ultimate symbol of Sierra Leonean representation. As if he just magicked his artistic brilliance into being for a wedding, without at least a decade of familial sacrifice, support, nurture and personal dedication.
One of the disappointing traits in Sierra Leoneans is the inability to discern, appreciate and importantly, respect talent.
Until one of our own is accredited by a foreign establishment or press, we dismiss them to irrelevance. Or sometimes worst. Especially performing artists.
More than likely, instead of celebratory, we stretch our judgement to make relationships with our artists adversarial. For example the singer Emmerson.
A lot of Sierra Leoneans see Emmerson as a political rival rather than a cultural icon. For no other reason but artistic requisite; the temerity to hold power to account - for us, ordinary people.
So much so that a recent event connected to Emmerson brought wild excitement to some because the turnout was disappointing.
Whether Emmerson personally incurred the losses or not, never factored in their thinking. Even the human consideration that a few people who could have fed their families for a day or two, needed to scour for other means on account of Emmerson’s unsuccessful event, was completely lost on their malice.
Not that a shameful delight at an artists’ misfortune surprised some of us, no. We expected it. After all, these are the same people who did triumphant cartwheels (or ‘turn-orbohing’ in Creole) upon news that the previous government with a President who was Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces, turned Emmerson, an ordinary artist, who’s barely getting by, into one of his arch-political rivals and banned him from using the National Stadium to earn a living. Absurdity beyond belief.
The point I’m trying to make is this. Celebrating Kanneh-Mason’s three minutes or so appearance at a wedding is not the same as supporting what he and other artists of Sierra Leonean heritage do. That’s opportunism.
I appreciate, totally, and mean no disrespect to those who shared his story and news of his selection for information purposes. It’s never lost on me, that’s a valuable service too - exposure.
I’m saying it’s not enough to those who share his photos just for personal uplift, when we cannot play our part in supporting him and all our plenty artists to a stratosphere we all know, most have the talent to scale.
I am very proud of Sheku Kanneh-Mason and especially his parents for encouraging his talent. Not because he performed at a wedding. The wedding came to Sheku because Sheku existed and developed, and is developing before and after the wedding.
I am proud of Sheku because he, like a lot of young people with a link to Sierra Leone, is proof that we are more than the below-average society some are trying to force us to accept as our all, and all.
All it takes is for people to look keenly for the better happening around us.
There are lots of talented young people of Sierra Leonean/African descent like Sheku, but we take no notice or fail to give them the support and eventual celebrity they deserve.
Take my friend Richmond Garrick, formerly of the 80s Freetown dance ensemble, The Davalgee Brothers. Richmond (or Richie as we fondly call him) is not just an accomplished artist of considerable experience in his own right, but a lecturer in Arts at a US college too. It gives me immense pride to inform people out of the cultural loop, who are mistaken to think Sheku Kanneh-Mason is a one-off, that Richmond’s son, Denzel Garrick is just as talented on his instrument, the piano. Check him out on YouTube under the name Richmond Denzel Garrick and marvel at talent - like father, like son.
The fact is, on several occasions, Richmond has shared videos of his son’s performances on Facebook. But because they are not tied to a Colonial review event, Sierra Leoneans just scrolled past, uninterested.
I wouldn’t even mention the many talented singers, born, or whose parents are Sierra Leonean that get no support or respect from fairweather Sheku supporters because they don’t get to feature at a royal wedding up their street.
I think most of my arguments here are constant in the belief that there is lot more to Sierra Leone than corrupt politicians and simple sycophants. Overthrow mediocrity, competence flourishes and Sierra Leone will fly.
Nothing illuminates a society more, than pride in its arts and support for those that produce it.
Forget the opportunity of first class potential and tutelage. Without support from people immediately around him, there’s no Sheku and mentions of Sierra Leone around a global event would have been limited to a flower on a bridal dress.
I will just begin closing with this question:
How many Sierra Leoneans who have just discovered a ‘national hero’ bothered to research the young brother to learn a bit more about his accomplishments before Meghan?
If you haven’t, there are other possible Kanneh-Mason ‘hero and heroines’ for you. Sheku’s part of a family of musicians. His siblings, Mariatu, Konya, Jeneba, Isata, Braimah and Aminata Kanneh-Mason are all classically trained/training musicians. Check them out here: www.kannehmasons.com
Sierra Leone’s Got Talent? You bet! The challenge is to produce more Kanneh-Masons, and more Garricks in Sierra Leone to complement the work of Emmerson and others.
Excellence is not an assumption but an accomplishment! Support.