Exclusive interview with Alpha Osman Bah, a.k.a. Fulabee
By Aaron Parker
NewsWatch Entertainment has been gathering information about a strange controversy surrounding the popular UK-based Sierra Leonean musician, Alpha Osman Bah, a.k.a. Fulahbee, wherein members of his immediate family and the Fulah community have been putting pressure on him to terminate his musical career as it is not in line with their tradition.
Speaking to Newswatch, his childhood friend Abubakarr Yansaneh, who did a song with Fulahbee in as early as 2004, said they have been friends for over 20 years, since the days of their time together at the Amadiyah Muslim Secondary School in Freetown. He told this medium that when Fulahbee started his music career in Sierra Leone, some members of the Fulah community were against his music because they thought it was against their tradition for him to engage in singing what they refer to as ‘worldly’ music.
He went further to say that recently, the musician, who now resides in the United Kingdom, has been receiving threats through whatsapp and facebook from members of the Fulah community in Freetown, saying that since he has refused to stop singing music and follow the footsteps of his late Father who was a highly placed Muslim cleric and a Sheik of Islam, his life will be in danger if he returns to Freetown.
Abubakarr said that music is a passion to Fulahbee and that his songs are more about love, peace and unity, and that he has never done a song that goes directly against religion or any individual.
Abubakarr accepted that the Fulahs are very strict about their tradition and religion but said that Fulahbee has come a long way in the music industry and that he should be given the chance to continue his music.
‘’I am speaking as someone who has done an album with Fulahbee. I Know the content of his music so I am pleading with the Fulah community to give him the chance to continue his career as he only preaches peace, unity and love’’ he said.
To get to the bottom of the matter, this reporter decided to probe further and visited Fulahbee’s mother, Mrs. Mariama Seray Bah, who lives at Sackville Street in Freetown. When the question was put to her, Madam Mariama said that since Fulabee started his music career, them as a family have not been in favor because his father who is now deceased, was a Sheik and it is against their tradition for a Sheik’s son to engage in such type of music. She said she has no option now because their father is dead and the children are all she has now; adding that Fulahbee is all grown up now so she cannot stop what he wants to do.
Asked if she will appeal to the fullah community to plead on his behalf, she said she cannot do that because the Father was not in favour before he died so it is against their tradition for her to do so but she said he is her son and she has no option but to accept him for whom he is.
Following the encounter with the mother, this reporter decided to do an exclusive interview with Fulahbee and on request it was graciously granted by the man himself. This is how it went.
NEWSWATCH – How long have u been in music and how far have you come in terms of its benefits to you?
FULAHBEE – I have been into music for more than 15 to 20 years now, I believe, and I am still doing it. Music is part of me. Music makes me happy. Music motivates me. Music tells me who I am and music gives me joy because it helps me to make people smile. My key objective is to preach peace and love and to make people happy. I love doing what I do. That is the major benefit I have derived from my music
NEWSWATCH – Has your music ever clashed with your religious background?
FULAHBEE – Yes. Definitely. But mostly the problem has been with my Family and other members of my tribe, the Fulahs. I am a born Muslim. My late father used to do the call to prayers for our Fulah community Mosque because he was a Sheikh. As the eldest son, I was expected to follow in his footsteps but when I decided to do music, I was viewed as a deviant and called ‘Machudor’, which in my language means ‘outcast’ so I was disowned by my people. As the first original Fula musician in Sierra Leone at that time they saw me as a bad example to their own children. A lot of things happened when I launched my first album and I almost lost my life. I was attacked through African fetish, which I am sure came from members of my extended family and I still carry the scars. That was what pushed me into leaving the country. I first travelled to neighbouring Guinea to heal myself. I even produced an album there which I never had the opportunity to release. I stayed quiet for a long time but after I did a recent interview with the BBC on my new album, I started receiving threatening calls from some members of my family and the Fulah community in Freetown. This has been going on for some time now. They threatened that since I have decided not to stop I must not come back to Freetown or I will be killed.
NEWSWATCH – How do you plan to settle the scores with your family and tribesmen if you your decision is to pursue your music career?
FULABEE – To be honest my only plan is to continue to do my music. That is what I live for. That is what I want. That is what I love. Why do I have to stop doing my music because people don’t like it? You have to do what you love. I am a peaceful and loving person and mean no harm to anybody so why should I be stopped? My only plan is my music. I have no scores to settle.
NEWSWATCH – Now that you have said you are in fear for your life will that stop you from coming back Home.
FULAHBEE – Trust me, I am really scared. These people are vicious and that is why I am bringing this story to the public. I want all Sierra Leoneans who love my music, my fans, and my fellow musicians to know why I have been silent for so long. I am really sacred and I can’t keep it as a secret any more. I have a feeling that I am not the only one who has been threatened like this but I have decided to speak out because I want the general public to know that these things happen and should be stopped. It is not fair. But to be honest, although it is heart rendering, this is my destiny. God gave everyone a talent. Some people are drivers, some are professors, some are politicians but music is my own talent. It is my destiny. Only God can make me stop doing music.
Following this interview, this reporter has spoken to several people who belong to the Fula tribe and asked their opinions on Fulabee’s claims. Most were tight lipped about the situation but some said the situation varies depending on the level of education and exposure.
Fulahs are mostly known in Sierra Leone as owners of the ubiquitous corner shops but some say that many Fulahs have pursued very illustrious and successful careers in academia, politics and business, and the circumstances surrounding Fulabee’s story may belong to an era that is fast fading out.