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Ebenezer Calendar was a cultural musician, historian and social commentator who used his popular maringa music to entertain and Ebenezer Calendar educate his fellow countrymen.

He was born in Freetown on November 19, 1912 of a Jamaican father and a Sierra Leonean mother. Calendar had an interrupted primary school career, attending Bishop Edwin Tabernacle and U.B.C. primary schools. According to some sources, this was the result of the hard times which the family experienced after the death of Calendar's father. Calendar left school at the age of fifteen because his mother could not afford to pay his way through secondary school. Other sources, however, suggest that Calendar dropped out of school of his own free will, influenced largely by his young friends. He joined the Public Works Department (P.W.D.) in 1927 as an apprentice carpenter. By 1930, he had become a qualified carpenter, and he was employed by Pa Alimamy Boungie, an undertaker at Kissy Street. Pa Boungie's undertaker shop used to conduct wake-keeping ceremonies for bereaved families. Thus Calendar would learn coffin-making during the day, and at night he would be among the men Pa Boungie would send to sing at wake-keeping ceremonies.

About this time, Calendar and two of his friends formed a small musical group. They practiced on open grounds, and on-lookers would sometimes give them money. Later, they began getting invitations to perform at weddings, parties and other festive occasions. All this was just part-time, reserved for evenings, as Calendar continued working for Pa Boungie. Before finally embarking on a full-time musical career, Calendar worked for some time with the Sierra Leone Railway, opened and ran an undertaker shop, and then was employed as cabinet-maker for the United African Company Limited (U.A.C.).

A versatile musician, Calendar learnt to play several different musical instruments, including the mandolin, the cornet, rhythm guitar and the trumpet. Calendar's group in the 1940s and 1950s relied upon a combination of locally-produced instruments like the bata (hand drum) and the triangle, and Western instruments like the guitar and the tambourine to produce his distinctive maringa rhythm. In 1951, he was commissioned by DECCA Recording Company to record a song commemorating the launching of the newly-introduced double-decker buses. The tune was an instant success, and Calendar established his reputation as a popular songwriter/musician celebrating contemporary events of the period. From this point of view, he can be looked upon as a social historian, commenting on contemporary happenings.

Calendar's early songs formed part of the dance music of the fifties and sixties, and most of his compatriots will remember the swinging rhythm of the hit song "Fire, Fire." As he grew older, his music became more philosophical, and he began to consider himself more as a teacher with the responsibility of imparting the lessons he gained from life to a younger generation. Wrapped in delightful music, Calendar preached the morality of a Krio-Christian society, with the rhythm making it easy for the people to identify with him and the values he advocated.

Ebenezer Calendar also helped popularise the radio when he joined the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service in 1952 as a programme officer. He performed with the Sierra Leone National Dance Troup at the Commonwealth Arts Festival in 1965 and 1966. On April 19, 1983 he was awarded the Certificate of Honour by the President of Sierra Leone for his meritorious service in the field of indigenous music. When he died in 1985, music groups from all over Freetown converged on his home at the foot of Mt. Aureol and played his songs continuously for twenty-four hours. Thousands gathered to remember the man they all loved and admired.

Ebenezer Calendar's place in Sierra Leone's history is assured because of his significant contribution to the development of a distinctively Sierra Leonean musical tradition.

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