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Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana is the last album by the beloved singer/
songwriter S.E Rogie. A collection of fingerpicked acoustic guitar tunes
rooted in the palm wine style of Sierre Leone, Rogie’s birthplace, and tinged
with gospel, reggae, country and blues, it was released to acclaim in 1994
and has become an indisputable classic. No wonder: to listen to this wrylytitled recording is to soothe the soul. To be transported to a gentle, unhurried
place where songs called things like ‘Jaimgba Tutu (The Joy of Success)’ and
‘Nyalomei Luange (Love Me My Love)’ tell life lessons in Krio and English over
the sweetest of melodies, in a silky baritone sung from the heart.
“Count your blessings, sisters and brothers,” croons Rogie on ‘African Gospel’,
his sentiments uplifted by call-and-response vocals, the chiming highlife
guitar of Ghana’s Alfred Kari Bannerman and the rhythmic double bass of
Danny Thompson, an Englishman whose ability to get to the heart of a piece
is palpable - and whose unlikely presence is part of the work’s uniqueness.
Rogie’s nearly fifty-year career was sprinkled with highlights. But it is this
album, his swansong — he passed away a few weeks after its release —
which endures. Ageing like a fine wine, indeed.