Joseph Gerald Adolphus Cole, better known as Daddy Saj, was born in 1978 in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, to Creole parents.
At the age of eight, the young Daddy Saj joined his church choir, where he was one of the most talented singers. In his teens, he found inspiration from some American based Hip hop artists. Daddy Saj fled Sierra Leone as a refugee and moved to Conakry, Guinea in 1997, when the government of the then President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was ousted by a group of soldiers in the Sierra Leonean army. He did this in order to save himself from being kidnapped as a child soldier.
While in Guinea, Daddy Saj became more ingrained in music and became friends with many other musicians from West Africa. When he returned to Freetown, he linked up with one of Sierra Leone’s most famous musicians and producers, Jimmy B (born Jimmy Bangura). Jimmy B signed him to his Paradise Family label. Jimmy B had already had good exposure in music internationally. Jimmy was a pioneer in promoting Sierra Leone music to the outside world.
As Daddy Saj puts it: “…for me it was a great privilege to work with him. It was like being in a furnace; purifying myself for the tasks ahead [laughter].”
Daddy Saj recorded several hit songs with the Paradise Family. He then left Paradise Family in 2003 to start his own label, Daddy Saj Entertainment.
His debut album ‘Corruption’ was released in 2003, and quickly became a bestseller not only in Sierra Leone but throughout many countries in Africa. Many Sierra Leoneans welcomed the song ‘Corruption E Do So’ (meaning in Krio “Corruption: Enough is Enough”), coming at a time when corrupt practices by authorities had become rampant in the country. The song spread like wildfire in terms of the rate of airplay on radio stations, as well as its rotation in street bars, pubs and restaurants.
However, the airplay of the song did not last long. Some top government officials, including some members of parliament and ministers, publicly announced their opinion that the song contained words which did not reflect the reality of the government of Sierra Leone. They warned that the song could become a catalyst for public unrest.
Even though the Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission started to use the song as their theme in the fight against corruption – and even sponsored the distribution of it, politicians called for a ban of the song. Also, rumours started going around that there was a five million Leones price tag on the artiste for his arrest.
Daddy Saj’s second album, ‘Densay Densay’ (meaning ‘Rumours, Rumours’ in Krio), also aimed to change some social attitudes, those towards sexual harassment. The album talks about women in Sierra Leone who often have no choice but to sleep with their employers to keep their jobs and support their family. His third album named ‘Faya 4 Faya’ was also an instant hit throughout West Africa. SaloneJamboree’s Rowland Scott talks to Daddy Saj in this revealing interview.
SCOTT: How have you been with life so far?
D.SAJ: I give God all the glory and adoration throughout these years for my life and family, though it wasn’t easy for me because I was tested positive for COVID 19. But I thank God for his grace for making it possible for me to be alive.
SCOTT: Why did you decide to take a break from your music career and pursue another profession?
D.SAJ: I never decided to take a break from my music career. One thing about me is that God always directs me and also decides my next moves. So I believe every step I take the direction was from God. So he leads me on the right way and I’m now a medical doctor. Now I can save lives, because he knows that I care for people and I’m the voice for the voiceless.
SCOTT: Are you sponsoring any upcoming artistes?
D.SAJ: I have been sponsoring so many Sierra Leonean artists, both old and new skul. Since way back, because I was the first elected president of Sierra Leone All-Stars Union, I have been supporting various acts back in the days and even up till now, financially, and I also motivate and advise them.
SCOTT: What’s your take on the implementation of the 2011 copyright law? (Which talks about piracy and the right of people who are in the entertainment industry).
D.SAJ: Not just today, we have been going through this issue of piracy since way back. We were facing a lot of people who called themselves lovers of entertainment who are still into piracy. As of now what mostly affects our industry is that there is no official platform that brings musicians together, both old and new, in Sierra Leone for better communication and mutual understanding. This is because every artist gets his/her own Kabal or social platforms. Some so-called musicians just do music for fame or just to earn money, but [they] have no passion for music.
Sierra Leone is a country where we don’t value or recognize our stars unless he/she belongs to a certain political party. Let’s take an example, Mohamed Kallon had been rejected several times for the SLFA Presidential contest. Kallon has worked so hard to place the Sierra Leone flag up, yet they can never appreciate or recommend his hard work and efforts.
SCOTT: Why do you choose to sing revolutionary songs?
D.SAJ: Like I said earlier, to me music is a calling from God, and I’m totally different from any other artists in Sierra Leone because I’m the voice for the voiceless and I don’t have anything to do with politics. That’s why the government recognizes Daddy Saj. And I also do gospel, but in Sierra Leone when we talk of gospel songs, most people think only by calling the name of Jesus in a song makes it a gospel song, which is wrong.
Corruption is a gospel song because it preached the truth and the happenings and gives out a positive message to the nation. I also speak for the people, that’s why they called me the voice for the voiceless.
Another Sierra Leonean act who also sings gospel is Innocent Kuti. If you listen (Pray 4 Me & Prove Them Wrong) you know exactly what I’m saying.
SCOTT: So what’s the issue between you and Dennis Sandy?
D.SAJ: The issue was not actually between me and Dennis Sandy really. It was between me and a man whom I understand is the grandchild of the late Siaka Steven, the former president of Sierra Leone.
We had a family land but we were all scattered and my mom was the only person that was living on the land prior to her death. So I decided to develop the land in 2016. But unfortunately, there was flooding in the country in 2018 that occur, which destroyed the land. So this man came and said that he wanted to buy the land from us. So he went to my aunt who is about 91years old and asked him to sell the land to him. But my aunt refused because of the amount the man wanted to pay for the land – Le20million, even when the land was priced at US$25, 000.
So they used their connection and influence with Dennis Sandy to take the land from us because at that time Dennis Sandy was the minister of lands. So they gave him US$2000 to take the land from us so that they can own it. Sandy told us that the man had more money than us and that we must give him the land. But we refused and he threatened my relatives that he would convert it to a government property if they didn’t comply.
Sandy brought soldiers and policemen to take our land from us. But one thing about me is that I’m a Godly person and a Biblical man. So I put all my problems and worries to the Lord, because he had never failed me or let me down.
Even though my relatives didn’t agree to sell the land, the man started building a fence on our land, just because he’s rich. So Dennis Sandy took advantage of us because he had been paid. So I was even having several calls and messages threatening me to back off from the land.
But I thank God now that Dennis Sandy has been sacked and we are now in court.
SCOTT: So tell me about your new single that has been already trending even though it’s yet to be released.
D.SAJ: “NOR KRACH ME KROKRO”, in English means — ‘DON’T MESS WITH ME’ – I am the Lyrical Warrior fayamambo. The Bible says ‘Touch Not My Anointed And Do My Prophet No Harm’.
What really inspired or moved me to do this song is the people that were calling me, saying that they are also victims of the same situation in which Dennis Sandy put us – grabbing their land from them because of his influence and power. So they pleaded to me to speak up for them so that the nation could be aware of the situation. So I thought and asked God for his strength and wisdom. So God directed me to do this song for the people because I am the voice for the voiceless.
SCOTT: So what advice would you give to your fellow musicians in SL?
D.SAJ: To my fellow musicians [I say] there is one thing I strongly believe. And that is: ‘If You Do Good, Na Good Go Follow You’. Nobody knows tomorrow. Maybe I will one day become President, you never can tell. So always stay focused, put God first and deviate yourself from negativity. Nowadays the music industry has become a political industry, in which most artists now have their different political parties and show it off even in the song they sing.
Another thing is that most Sierra Leonean musicians now sing like the Nigerians. That’s why I’m really proud of Drizilik, that he was nominated in the MTV Africa Music Awards 2021 because he really portrays our culture and style of singing in our local dialect (KRIO). Sierra Leoneans, get ready for my new hit single that will be out soon: “NOR KRACH ME KROKRO”. If You Krach Me Krokro E Go End Up Pa Drodro.