Dr. Oloh and His Milo Jazz; Gumbay music from Sierra Leone

In January of 1994 I spent an afternoon with Dr. Oloh in his cramped rehearsal space in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  A friend was studying percussion with him and invited me to come to one of his lessons.   Dr. Oloh was gregarious and welcoming.  He was patient and encouraging, happy to share his craft.

Dr. Oloh was born Israel Olufemi Cole on March 20, 1944 in the village of Leicester, a coastal town approximately fifteen kilometres east of Freetown.  His childhood dream was to become a religious minister but his parents couldn't afford to provide him with the secondary school education necessary for him to further his religious studies .  By the age of 10 he had seemingly decided to pursue a career in music.  His primary early influence was the Gumbay and Maringa music of Ebenezer Calender.

By the late 1960s he had earned his stage name Dr. Oloh and created his own syle of music, a sound he called Milo Jazz.  He accompanied his songs with a percussion ensemble of bass drum, triangles, bottles, a tenor drum, and a harmonica.  He sang of the dramas of everyday life in Freetown and of political and social issues as they were lived by the capital's poorest residents.  During the 1990s, at the peak of his career, Dr. Oloh took his Milo Jazz to the United Kingdom three times, in 1991, 1994 and 1996. 

Dr. Oloh passed away in Freetown on October 13, 2007. 

I don't know how many studio recordings Dr. Oloh made during his career.  This post features two cassettes that I picked up in Freetown.  The first, which I purchased directly from Dr. Oloh, is a dub of a studio recording.  The cassette is called 'World Music Volume 3', so I assume that there are at least two other volumes.  Discogs lists one 45 rpm single, released in 1987.  I also have a CD of his music that was released by a Sierra Leoneon label in Maryland in the late 1990s. 

Download Dr. Oloh - World Music Volume 3

This second recording is a cassette I picked up, I think, at the Albarka Recording Centre in Freetown.  This sounds more like a live to boombox recording than a dub of a studio recroding.  The quality of this recording leaves much to be desired, the harmonica is lost in the background, but it has a nice feel.

Download Albarka Recording Centre

If you enjoy these recordings, check out this youtube video featuring Dr. Oloh and the Milo Jazz performing on the John Peel show.  This is a very nice recording.

Finally, let me draw your attention to two fantastic blog posts that have been published this week.  If you haven't yet done so, go NOW to Likembe and download this recording.  This is the kind of music I have spent the last several decades looking for!!  Once that is done, head over to Music Republic and download this terrific recording from Parakou, Northern Benin.  These are the musical treasures of my dreams and happy days!! Thank you again to John at Likembe and to Music Republic for sharing these recordings!

The details on Dr. Oloh's life are taken from this article


  1. Thanks, really love this music!!
    Amazing that this music is coming from a country neighbour of Guinee Conakry, a completely different sound.
    Just posted more Dr Oloh (recordings of Peel Sessions) on my blog.


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