Social media reports legendary music promoter's death

Undated archive photo of Sierra Leonean music promoter Akie Deen (right) shaking hands with hitmaker Bunny Mack

Social media reports on the death Sunday of legendary music promoter Akie Deen dominated headlines for Sierra Leoneans online. 

Akie was known and respected as one of West Africa's’s biggest show business gurus. “Throughout his life, he dedicated considerable time in promoting Sierra Leone in diverse ways. He is the first Sierra Leonean internationally recognized as a record producer,” wrote The Torchlight in 2009, when Akie was named as Sierra Leone Trade Commissioner to the United Kingdom. “He’s responsible for the international exposure and promotion of Sierra Leone’s early music groups, singers and cultural performers. Akie is a promoter, marketing consultant and events planner," the paper said.

Prior to his appointment as trade commissioner, Akie served as a director of Clapham Park Homes, a social housing organization; member of the management team of Generation Radio in Clapham and a director of the Lambeth Credit and Savings Union Bank.

But it was his music production that people remember most.

Born in Freetown in 1947, Akie first became interested in music production as social secretary of the Sierra Leonean Students’ Union in England. In 1972, he helped organize an eight-week tour of Sierra Leone’s Afro National. He was also involved with their first releases, the two singles “Dem Kick” and Wondei Mu Yei. ”

Speaking of that experience, he told John Collins for West African Pop Roots (Published May 18th 1992 by Temple University Press)

“It was with great difficulty that I got the first shop in London to take even ten records. Also I had no car and had to put the records in a friend’s car. We used to attend and ask the DJ to play them in order to sell them." 

In 1973, Akie arranged a tour of the United Kingdom for Ghana’s top-guitar band at the time, the African Brothers, and recorded two songs by them, including the popular “Maria.”  After convincing a DJ on Radio London’s Reggae Time to play them on air, Akie said he got requests for boxes of twenty-five from shops who had only taken a single copy. “In one week I got through five hundred,” Collins wrote.

In 1974, Akie produced two bands. One was Sierra Leone’s Super Combo and the other was the Funkees form Nigeria. The following year, members of Afro National, reportedly under the name Sabanoh 75, came to London again and helped by Akie released three singles, “Susanna,” “Konko,” and “Carry On,” which all became big hits in Sierra Leone. When the band returned in 1977, Akie released a twelve-inch single version of Rokafil Jazz’s “Sweet Mother” with them, under the registered Afro-disco name of Wagadugu. He also started working with Liberia’s Miatta Fahnbulleh, who recorded two traditional songs in disco-style: “Amo Sake Sa” and the reggae “KoKolioko.”  Akie followed this huge success by producing other artists such as Emmanuel Rentoz, a keyboard player from Ghana, singer Nina da Costa from the West Indies, and Yvonne Mobamabo from South Africa, among others.

Akie also organized tours of Nigeria for Bunny Mack to coincide with Mack’s release of Supafrico

Writing on Facebook, Bunny Mack’s son, Kris MacCormack, presenter/head of programming at Capital Radio Sierra Leone, posted this message to his wall.

“As a kid his beard fascinated me, but not as much as his work on songs for Dad ("Let Me Love You" "Supafrico" and “Silver Spoon" etc.) did.

Sabanoh 75 (all their mid-late 70's output), the late Ade Forster-Jones ("Tumba"), Miatta Fahnbulleh ("Kokolioko", "Amo Sakee Sa") and many others were blessed with percussion-heavy, often disco-influenced production style. A larger than life man who deserves his own retrospective, his legacy surely lives on... #wagadugu”

The Torchlight remembered Akie scoring “massive success in Britain with Bunny Mack’s “Let Me Love You” single, which entered the UK Top of the Pops music chart. “It also entered the music charts in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, The Caribbean, France and Portugal. "Let me Love" sold well over a million copies worldwide.

Sierra Leonean songs like Sonjo, Konko, Ya Bonda, Easy Dancing, Tumba, Kokolioko, Paddle, King Jimmy, Bam Bam Bolero were all produced by Akie Deen, The Torchlight said. Akie worked with home-grown Sierra Leonean talents such as Dr. Olloh and his Milo Jazz, Big Fayia, Kabba Brothers, Makiya, Bosca Banks, Otis Thompson, Sam Maitland, Miatta Fanbulleh and Ade Forster-Jones.

"As an international music promoter, he worked with legendary performers such as Bob Marley, Edwin Starr, Marvin Gaye, Lucky Dube, Brenda Fasie, Sunny Okosun, Kofi Olomide, Kanda Bongo Man, Odyssey, Awilo Lomgomba, Papa Wemba, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Pascal Rouchure. African Brothers Band and Fangbonde."

More recently, Akie was  event organizer for Guinness International, and the Mayor of London. The London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark are some of his past clients who are always satisfied with his work, the paper said.

"He promoted al lot of African musicians in the U.K and tried to expose them on the international market, said Sorie Sankoh, a  music fan who came of age in 1970’s Freetown and helped to promote Bunny Mack on the international scene.

Syl Juxon-Smith, a 1970s pop culture icon, posted this message to his wall:

"The late Akie Deen was a mentor to many and especially to me in my youthful musical days as the youngest musician starting at the age of 10 years in my first ever live stage performance in Sierra Leone. He gave me the opportunity to contribute to some of his  recording sessions in London. He admired my talents as a drummer, singer and percussionist.  He always called me to chat about those glorious and wonderful 70s/80s days in Sierra Leone.

He will be missed by all those who have interacted with him, especially Sierra Leoneans, and other musicians from diverse nationalities. He helped to further their musical career in Europe and others he gave opportunity to play at many musical concerts and social entertainment performances bringing them opportunities and successes.

"We will miss you Akie Deen. The world and Sierra Leone will miss you because you made such a huge difference in the music and entertainment world influencing many young musicians and entertainers with hope and courage to persevere. I often wondered why you were so loved, adored and admired by many, but now I know the reason why. Good people go too soon, they have only a time which seems so short to leave their footprints in the sand of time.

"Adieu my dear friend, “AKIE DEEN" till we meet again to part no more. Sleep well in God's loving arms and I pray that God comforts your family and everyone else who loved you......R.I.P!

[Purple Haze]"


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