West Africa


One of Sierra Leone’s best-known musicians, Ahmed Janka Nabay, is dead.

He died at age 54.

Luaka Bop Records representatives confirmed his death to music website Pitchfork.

Nabay became known as the king of bubu music after taking traditional music of the Temne people in Sierra Leone and modernising it into an electronic dance subgenre.

He first rose to fame in Sierra Leone in the 1990s after competing in a talent contest, and later found fame in the US, where he fled after the civil war.

The cause of death was not clear.

Nabay first found success with his music career in Sierra Leone, where he was one of the first artists to popularize the bubu music that originated in the Tenme regions of the country. At the end of the country’s civil war, Nabay made his way to the United States. He worked in kitchens and other odd jobs until 2007, when some of his older bubu releases were rediscovered in America.

Nabay relocated to Brooklyn and issued the first bubu music ever to be released commercially in the United States, the Bubu King EP, in 2010 via True Panther. Nabay, and his band the Bubu Gang, then released two full-lengths on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label: En Yay Sah (2012) and Build Music (2017).