Very very suffer

Time: 01:11

This short transition piece is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The man speaking is Pa Abu Kamara, who worked for my family when we lived in Sierra Leone more than 20 years ago. The recording is from our recent reunion at his home in Freetown. The guitar is me playing on a rooftop in Guatemala City. Each recording captured musical ambience: the plane overhead, birds, kids, and they fit together in a rhythmic narrative.

I am embarrassed to admit that when I was a kid I took Pa Kamara for illiterate and servile. In recent years we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other again, when I’ve come to Freetown for work. Contrary to my childhood assumptions, Pa Kamara writes perfect Arabic and is second Imam at his mosque. He gives a charismatic service and is a respected leader in his community – an urban farming neighborhood with little infrastructure. He describes the condition of his community as “very very suffer.” In every material sense, his life is harder than mine, but he seems happy.