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Reggae Artist from Sierra Leone Performs at VOA

Much of singer's music inspired by his homeland

Washington, D.C., March 6, 2009 - Reggae artist JR performed on the Voice of America's (VOA) African Beat music program, rapping and reminiscing about his youth in Sierra Leone and his evolving music career since coming to the United States as a teenager.

JR, who appeared at VOA yesterday, said many of his songs are inspired by his native country, which he left two decades ago for the United States.

A lifelong singer, he began writing music after witnessing from afar the devastation wrought by Sierra Leone's civil war, which left more than 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced between 1991 and 2002.

In 2004, JR joined with the Sierra Leonean reggae band The Jungle Leaders to play his first composition, Rise Up Sa Lone, which urged the government to help the suffering people. His first solo album, Born Sierra Leonean, debuted in 2006 and has sold 5,000 copies.

JR started playing reggae in high school in the United States. After graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served 13 years in active duty. After leaving military service, JR earned his college degree from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. While continuing to pursue his music career, today JR works at Lockheed Martin Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland.

VOA's African Beat, first broadcast in 2006, is a daily one-hour music program showcasing various styles of music popular throughout the African continent. Program host David Vandy, a Sierra Leonean native himself, uses music to reach a broad audience regardless of age, tribe, or culture.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail