David Moinina Sengeh is a lot of things in one: a scientist and creative thinker, Graduate of the prestigious Harvard and now a politician; bringing science and innovation into politics as Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) cum Minister of Basic Education being uniquely the youngest minister in Bio’s administration.
But away from politics, David Moinina Sengeh talks to SaloneJamboreeof his innate tendency to music. Balancing his time as CIO and Minister, he as well shares his thought about the Sierra Leone music industry. Read the revealing interview:
SaloneJamboree: How do you balance your time between work as a minister, a man in charge of the Innovation Secretariat and your love for music?
Sengeh: I’m currently the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and Chief Innovation Office, It’s an expanded portfolio but I do it because I have a good team. The good thing about the Directorate of Science and Innovation since we launched the National Innovation and Digital strategy is that we have sets of ongoing projects implemented by competent staff. My own role is to provide the required technical leadership. This revolves mostly around technology and digital innovation ideas. As I’ve already mentioned, the day to day management of affairs at the secretariat is in the hands of other people. I work with a confident team of young people. As a minister, you meet people and systems in place so it is just about providing leadership. So it’s about the expansion of roles but they are all related by the way.Well, you ask me? I can still do my extramural activities. I was doing music from when I was ten. I used to perform with my elder brother at the Bo Town Hall. I always wrote for myself; we used to do live show competitions. So when I went to college, I did a little bit of playing around but it wasn’t major as I went back to grad school. When I was doing my Ph.D., I would run these simulation models that would easily take 37 minutes to run. So I just sit down with my computer watching these models run, then write music and in the evening I record. We had a studio at the lab, and that spurred me to just do more and more!I’ve performed at TED and also at MIT. When I came back to Freetown there was the music festival at the Stadium and I had just released a track so I performed there as well. But now I enjoy writing. The thing that made me do music again in Sierra Leone is that I am inspired by many of those in the industry. Most of the artists and creatives are talented, smart people. They have degrees; some are lawyers, engineers, and scientists but they are making music and that’s what I love. I’m a scientist; I’m a designer, policymaker, politician, and artist!
SaloneJamboree: How would you describe your kind of music?
Sengeh: Afrobeats (Smiles); clever afrobeat. The thing I like about music is coming up with clever lyrics, coming up with funny stuff; creative, that is not objectifying women, is not objectifying people. Cleverness is not about making fun of other people’s status. For me, it is really about making progressive music that is inspiring.
SaloneJamboree: Do you do it for fun; and how far you intend taking music?
Sengeh: I do it for fun. The music I do is for myself; for me to enjoy and enjoy it. I write for myself but I share with other people when I release when I perform it’s for myself and for people who are cocky, who are nerdy…like I’d dotted the Is and crossed the Ts and got a Ph.D. from MIT.
Some people find it funny, others don’t get it but it’s like saying ‘I have a degree, I have a degree…’ So it’s playing upon syllables. I’m comfortable…, proud of being a nerd; the same way other people will show off that they have Lamborghinis that they don’t have. I can show that I have a degree that I have. So it is just people being comfortable with what is real.
SaloneJamboree: How many songs do you have to your credit?
Sengeh: I have released a lot of songs and music videos. I collaborate a lot, I don’t believe in solo acts. I’m a creative, collaborative thinker. So even with the videos, I did with other TED fellows …I like smart people who can think, who can play, have fun, share ideas and can be comfortable with because if you say something to me that I don’t like, I should be comfortable to say yeah, what do you like?.
SaloneJamboree: Apart from the song you did with Drizilik, are you working on other ‘collaboration’ songs?
Sengeh: Yes, a couple of songs are coming out.
SaloneJamboree: Any plan to release an album?
Sengeh: Maybe a mixtape, maybe a set of singles.
SaloneJamboree: How would you describe the music industry in Sierra Leone?
Sengeh: I like it; I think it’s smart and free. I don’t think there are places where artists who are doing well have degrees. Lots of our artists are clever, smart young people. I think it’s a big deal that people who are designers, visual artists, in the media and fashion world are all smart young people.
SaloneJamboree: On the music side, what’s your stage name?
Sengeh: I don’t have any other name, no stage or nickname. For me, I just want to be known as Moinina. When I do stuff I just say Caces’tMoi’ meaning ‘this is me’ in French.
SaloneJamboree: Thanks for your time.
Sengeh: You’re welcome.