The US embassy is hosting the event to celebrate the annual remembrance of America`s recognition of the contributions of African-Americans to the country’s development.
This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination and became a catalyst for social change in the US.
The rise of Motown music during this period became known as “The Sound
That Changed America.”
The Black-and-White-Ball will be a platform to celebrate the success of one of America’s biggest record label, Motown. The event, which is slated for February 22nd, will also showcase Sierra Leonean artists and their songs.
Speaking to SaloneJamboree in an exclusive interview, Jimmy B said he feels highly honored.
“It is truly an honor to speak on behalf of the Sierra Leone music industry,” he said.
The Paradise records CEO added: “I am grateful for this honor and I see this as a good platform to celebrate Motown and Sierra Leone songs.”
“There are so many lessons our friends from the United States would learn from us.”
Kathleen FitzGibbon, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, said: “We hope that the lessons learned from Motown’s remarkable rise can help inform and inspire the same trajectory for the Sierra Leonean music industry. This theme commemorates the unprecedented contributions of African-Americans to American music and civil rights and builds upon U.S. Embassy Freetown’s activities to promoting free expression and use of music and entertainment to reach out to the majority of the population.”
Jimmy B spent part of his musical career in the US before returning home to Sierra Leone to start a renaissance of Sierra Leone music with the setting up of Paradise Records in the early 2000s. The musician cum actor, movie producer and director, is credited for promoting a long list of local artists.
Jimmy B has won the Order of the Rokel, Sierra Leone`s highest national honor, for his contribution to nation building through music. He has won several awards in and outside Sierra Leone. He recently won the Life By Design community Impact Award.
The U.S. Embassy is hosting a Black-and-White Ball to celebrate Black History Month, a time when Americans recognize the contributions of African-Americans to the country’s development. This year’s event marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination and became a catalyst for social change in America. The rise of Motown music during this period became known as “The Sound That Changed America.”
The Motown sound became mainstream American music not by law or force, but by choice. It was clever entrepreneurship that exposed talented artists to a wider audience that led to the integration of the work of black musicians into the record collections of all Americans.
Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder, said that, “Success starts with a dream….that’s what’s wrong with people, they give up their dreams too soon. I’m never going to give up mine.” Berry Gordy did not give up and today American music has changed forever because of Motown’s success.
Moreover, the Civil Rights Act and a changed society have given the United States its first President with African descent and African-Americans have more opportunities.
The Black-and-White Ball will highlight Motown’s success in transforming American society and showcase the Sierra Leonean music industry’s capacity to play a similar positive role as an effective medium to address social issues and change. The theme fits with the U.S. Embassy’s goals of promoting free expression and outreach through creative mediums (i.e. music and entertainment) to the majority of the population. It also is a cultural exchange aimed at exposing Sierra Leoneans to Motown artists and expanding the audience for Sierra Leonean music.
Motown was a vehicle for self-expression and community pride that helped advance the rights of minorities and social equality during a dark period of discrimination in the United States. Motown’s success stemmed from its efficient and effective management of artists that were able to cross over the racial divide and win widespread popularity and commercial success. Sierra Leone’s music industry is reorganizing itself to develop a distinct identity, better promote and market artists, protect intellectual property rights, join the growing wave of African music in international markets, and serve as a voice for social issues and positive vehicle for change. There is world class talent here that can play an important role in social dialogue and raise Sierra Leone’s entertainment profile on the international stage.
Jimmy Bangura (Jimmy B), brought his experience in the U.S. music industry to revive Sierra Leone’s music industry and launch internationally-known Sierra Leonean artists. Jimmy B is the “Godfather of Sierra Leonean Music” and will speak to the challenges and opportunities in the music industry. Several musicians will be invited to share the Motown experience. The evening will feature the greatest songs by Motown artists alongside popular Sierra Leonean songs.
The U.S. Embassy sponsored the successful union of local Sierra Leonean music artists and the Sierra Leonean Police to promote violence free elections in November 2012 through a series of peace concerts throughout the country in which local artists teamed up with the police to deliver messages – in a medium that youth could relate to – about the importance of democracy, participation, and peaceful elections. An Arts Envoy program featuring Toki Wright, a U.S. hip-hop artist, helped local musical artists better understand and use hip-hop as a means of social expression and as a tool to increase the participation of youth in shaping a positive future for the country. An unanticipated, but significant outcome of the visit was that the Embassy hosted the first-ever meeting between twenty local disc jockeys and up-and-coming music artists in Sierra Leone. The DJs collectively declared that they wanted to play music devoid of profanity and obscenity. They urged the artists to put Sierra Leone on the map by creating a unique sound, possibly incorporating a local dialect or traditional music, so that the rest of the world would want to listen to Sierra Leonean music.
“Motown Meets Freetown” is another opportunity for the U.S. Embassy to support arts and entertainment in Sierra Leone.