By State House Communications Unit
President Ernest Bai Koroma has on Tuesday 25 March 2014 assured the Balanta Academy of Music that he shares their concerns over the diminishing attention to the development of Sierra Leone’s culture through the development of its national musical heritage. The President was speaking during a courtesy call paid on him by the Board of Directors of the Academy.
Leading the delegation was the chair of the board, Engineer Tani Pratt who first warmly thanked the Head of State, on behalf of the Sierra Leone arts and music community at large, for the recent personal intervention of President Koroma in ensuring the late Professor Yulisa Amadu Maddy was provided adequate medical care when the professor fell gravely ill.
Engineer Pratt said even though the late man succumbed to his illness, the fact that the President was out of the country when the late man fell ill but still the Head of State went on to give urgent instructions from overseas for the late man to be speedily treated at Choithram’s Hospital, was evidence of the President’s respect for those who serve the Nation in the field of arts and music.
Mr. Tani Pratt said the Academy was at State House to update the President on their activities and to invite the President and First Lady to their upcoming musical event entitled JEGEJEKSKAYAMA which is the last known work of the late Prof. Yulisa Amadu Maddy and which is slated to hold on April 2nd 2014.
Mr Pratt informed President Koroma that Balanta is the only music academy in Sierra Leone. It was established in 1995, by a small group of famous Sierra Leoneans musicians and named after Nicolas George Julius Balanta, a famous Sierra Leonean composer. The dream of the board is to upgrade the academy to the highest peak to march world class standards. He extensively highlighted their constraints which included lack of a National Theatre for the Arts and non-provision of a Government subvention in a very timely manner.
Responding, President Koroma warmly welcomed the delegation to State House and expressed delight for strides taken so far by the Academy.
President Koroma expressed belief that every country has its own music and culture which makes it unique and which serves as basis for national pride and good history for future generations to look back on. He shared the sentiments earlier expressed by Engineer Tani Pratt that it is very rare these days for people to pay much attention to the arts and to development of music as there are now other forms of entertainments.
In this light, he expressed his personal admiration for the staff and management of the Academy for what he said was a national sacrifice by professionals who were undertaking a heroic work to sustain culture and music in the country. He said the late Prof. Yulisa Amadu Maddy was one such hero who served faithfully and prayed for his soul to rest in peace.
President Koroma lamented that he will be unable to attend the JEGEJEKSKAYAMA musical as he would be out of the country but he promised to discuss with the First Lady about their family’s personal contribution to the Academy as sponsors of the musical event for which he said his family will get back to the Academy “in the shortest possible time”.
President Koroma agreed with the Academy on the need for a formal cultural policy to be formulated. He further agreed that having a national cultural theatre is something that will add value to the culture of Sierra Leone but reminded that resources are limited and the country has other priorities especially in terms of safeguarding the lives and well being of the citizens. He however said his government will continue to source funds so that “maybe before the end of my second term, the country build such a magnificent theatre for the arts”.
He said concerning the request for land for the construction project of office space for the Academy, he will instruct the Ministry of Lands Country Planning and the Environment to locate suitable State land to be granted the Academy. He further promised to discuss the matter of subvention for the Academy with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
In conclusion, President Koroma urged the delegation to continue to work in close collaboration with government so as to work together and formulate a formidable culture policy, in which the Ministry of Culture will take the lead but the Academy will be also fully involved. He directed for his Special Executive Assistant, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, to be the liaison between State House, the relevant Ministries and the Balanta Academy.
Amongst the visiting delegation were Directors, Ibi May-Parker, Dr. Kitty Fadlu Deen, Mrs Luba Wiltshire-Johnson, Mr. Gwyn Allen and the Academy’s Principal Mrs Maggie Fyle.