A Harvard graduate and MIT PhD, David Moinina Sengeh is now the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone. Having grown up with victims of his country’s decade-long civil war, and with many amputees, he was first known for his postgraduate research work on prosthetics. Much of that research was conducted while he was a doctoral student at the MIT Media Lab.
Having just made New African Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential Africans of 2020,” Sengeh chose to express himself, using his African name Moinina, through music, with the release of his first studio album Love Notes To Salone. Salone references the Innovate Salone entrepreneurship program he launched in his home country, as well as in Kenya and South Africa.
As a Minister for Basic Education, why did you decide to release this album?
As a minister, I wanted to release the album for a couple of reasons. First, as an individual, I’ve always been into music, and I enjoy the creativity that comes with producing music. Secondly, within the ministry, we are focusing and expanding on what we care about with basic education, which should be about more than just numeracy and literacy. Instead, we want to focus on the five Cs, which are Civics, Computational thinking, Creativity, Comprehension and Critical thinking.
With this album, we were looking to channel both creativity and civics. The title of the album, Love Notes to Salone, is about my experience being a relatively young person in government, but also about tapping into different levels of creativity by having different youths involved in the project.
The idea is that one can be a productive citizen that is also creative. Some people believe that musicians and not that useful to society. I wanted to show that, if the minister of basic education is making music, then it’s not a distraction, or an occupation for dropouts, but rather a celebration of our culture and traditions.
Tell us about your collaborators Augu6time, Bash and Bayoh. How did you meet them?
Augu6tine is a lawyer. He went to university, he finished, and he has just completed his exams to take the bar exam. We recorded this album while he was in law school. Bash is a young engineer. He is also a producer that is creating award-winning productions with Drizilik, who is currently the biggest musician in Sierra Leone. We featured Drizilik on a track called “Six.” Drizilik was featured on CNN, on the BBC, and we are all proud of what he does.
With Bash, I send him a vibe, and he makes a beat to it, and then we record in different people’s studios. Bayoh is a producer and an engineer. He is also a coder, and he is actually one of our best software developers in Sierra Leone. When we met, we started talking music and realized that we had similar interests. Bayoh is the one who introduced me to Augu6tine, Bash and Drizilik, because he works with them in the same company.
My work with music is about putting a spotlight on Sierra Leoneans who are not in the limelight. I just want to celebrate them. For the music videos, for instance, I asked Bayoh, who employs four people who produce music videos, to work with me in challenging them on their creativity.
What are your 2021 plans for Innovate Salone?
Salone is there, but I’m really thinking in terms of education. I think it’s about moving towards equitable education, and how we can increase quality education, while ensuring that creativity, arts and music are part of the curriculum. That is why I’m setting up a task force on creativity that will think about how we can ensure that children are able to capture their creative energy and express themselves. There will be more of that in 2021. Watch this space.
You can hear Moinina’s Love Notes To Salone here.