Kao Denero: ‘I’m not an enemy of the State!’
Sierra Leonean USA based rapper Kao Denero has described the banning of his ‘Back to My Roots’ show at the eleventh hour as an act of being treated like a foreigner in his own country, and insisted that he should not be treated like an enemy of the State.
Posting on his Facebook page minutes after the announcement of the ban by the Sierra Leone Police on Saturday, 6th April 2013, the acclaimed King of Sierra Leone Hip Hop wrote: “God bless the poor people of Sierra Leone as I am sensing dictatorship creeping slowly in my land of birth. In the words of Bob Marley, get up and stand up for your right! Today, in my own country, I have been treated as a foreigner. Injustice, mishandling of power to the third degree! God is Great!”
Kao’s post has generated one of the highest reactions on his Facebook page as Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans from all over the world rally around the King. Since he posted the above reaction on Saturday it has received more than 506 comments as of Sunday morning, and 508 ‘Likes’ (as we go to press); perhaps the highest so far in recent times on a particular entertainment topic regarding a Sierra Leonean artist.
One of the comments, by Mustapha Joaque, attempted to inspire the rapper in his time of disappointment: “This is not the beginning neither the end of Kao Denero. A hero is hardly honoured in his home. Let’s just keep the peace.”
Another by Abdul Deen Sesay takes a swipe at the Sierra Leone Police for banning the show: “Where were the Police when gangs of youths were terrorising Freetownians during the recent Paddle Parade? If you cannot ban the annual Paddle Parade why ban our show?”
Ibrahim Kamara from Freetown attempts to defend the Sierra Leone Police and the Government: “Why some people always find it hard to understand and always getting things twisted? This issue is not the fault of the Government, neither the Police. They are just trying to maintain the peace, so why the blame? People who were victims of the Friday rally know what pain they undergo. Sierra Leoneans please let us stop the attitude problem. This is not about the passion you have for music, but for the safety of our beloved country. Much love to all the patriotic citizens.”
Kao Denero arrived quietly in Freetown from his base in Atlanta, Georgia, in the USA days before his well planned and publicised show to the frustration of his numerous fans, who had arranged to welcome him from Lungi in grand style.
On the eve of the show (Friday 5th April), with Police permission, the major sponsors – telecommunications company Africell Lintel SL Ltd – organised a rally with Kao Denero from Calaba Town to the National Stadium, the venue for the ‘Back to my Roots’ album launch. The rally attracted crowds and crowds of young people from all over. During the rally, incidents of vandalism from the rapper’s followers were reported here and there. The followers reportedly attacked people and carted away their valuables.
The next day, Saturday 6th April, whilst last minute arrangements for the show were being carried out, the Sierra Leone Police put out a press release/public notice banning the scheduled show until further notice. The Police said they earlier granted permit for the ‘Back to my Roots’ album launch at the National Stadium on condition that the artist and his fans maintain law and order throughout. However, the Police cited incidences of robbery, molestation of some peaceful citizens in parts of eastern and central Freetown, during the rally on the eve of the show as breach of law and order.
It could also be recalled that on Easter Monday there were also reports of a violent clash between two masquerades, which the Police later confirmed on Radio Democracy 98.1FM to be rival groups belonging to rapper LAJ’s RFM (Red Flag Movement) and Kao Denero’s unit Black Leo.
However, as we go to press Kao posted another statement on his Facebook page insisting that no law was broken.
“As far as I am concerned no law was broken. Till this moment the Police force owes us our money that was paid for 150 officers that they recommended to provide security for the event. The rally was headed by their patrol vehicle; we had permits approved by all concerned; we followed all routes that they suggested, only for them to ban our event. I am not a politician, don’t belong to any political party; I should not be treated as enemy of the state, ‘coz I am loved by my people. It’s deeper than music, ghetto struggle continues. God is Great,” Kao wrote.
But Ethleen Peacock, a presenter at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) brought this to the attention of Kao Denero on her Facebook page: “At your rally last night, there was a lot of stealing by your fans. My purse was brutally snatched from me. This purse contains my phone, money and bank ID. Make sure next time you put measures in place and control your fans that they will stop such indecent behaviour. Thanks.”
The sudden ban became the hottest topic in the country on Saturday as pockets of people, mostly young people, gather across the country discussing the issue. Some even denied that the ban was just rumour and Kao Denero was also on radio urging people to attend the show claiming that news of the ban was being spread by his detractors.
When the ‘Freetown Most Wanted’ rapper, and his partners, finally confirmed the ban was real, he swiftly came to AYV Radio 101.6FM in a large company of colleague artists and other music stakeholders, including Nasser Ayoub, PM The Player, Succulent, Shine De God Son, Boxx and more. Kao reportedly shed heavy tears as he appealed to the authorities to reverse the ban and allow the show to go on as scheduled.
His perceived rival, LAJ, called from the USA and he was put live on air. The ‘Money Na Bank’ star condemned the ban as untimely. He said the action by the Police was potentially dangerous as it might cause uproar from fanatics. LAJ, who also has a pending show at the National Stadium on Independence Day, expressed fear and said the ban has the propensity to kill the spirit and determination of local artists.
Even rival female hip-hop artists, Star Zero and Willie Jay, were united on this. They called during the programme and appealed to the authorities to reverse their decision and appealed to the fans to stay calm and obey the law.
The country’s deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Mr. Mustapha Bah Atilla, himself a musician, was listening to the programme from home and became interested. He swiftly arrived at the AYV Radio studios to hang heads with the aggrieved musicians. He expressed his love for Kao Denero’s music but condemned the indecent and violent behaviour of the fans as unacceptable. He said Kao was already popular and there was massive advertisement and promotion for the proposed show to the extent that there should have been no need for the rally on Friday.
However, the Police were firm on their decision.
Incidentally, the first big rains announcing the coming of the rainy season dropped heavily on Freetown around 9 p.m., and many people concluded later on that the ban was in fact a blessing in disguise as the rains would also have spoiled the show.
A frustrated Kao Denero subsequently expressed his disappointment on his Facebook page attracting hundreds of comments from concerned people all over.
Meanwhile, there are now speculations that the planned show on Independence Day, April 27th, by rival LAJ may also be banned in similar vein. However, Police media boss, ASP Ibrahim Samura, said it has nothing to do with the upcoming LAJ show.
On whether the show can be rescheduled, ASP Samura said the ban was until ‘further notice’. He said he couldn’t rule out the possibility as Police continue to look into the matter.
A senior staff of the sponsors, Africell, said their support for Kao’s album launch would continue and that they were currently looking at the possibility of a reschedule.
By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) & Murtala Mohamed Kamara
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