This article explores the role of commando and morale booster songs among Revolutionary United Front (henceforth RUF) combatants in the Sierra Leone war of the 1990s. Based on recent research findings, it looks at the tunes that accompanied military training and combat activities and more generally examines the role of music to help generate social cohesion and sustain collectivities. The article examines how songs elicit beneficial physical and emotional responses advantageous for soldiering and it analyses the diverse ways in which songs have been reworked from other performance contexts and placed into a conflict setting. Most of the songs dealt with are (partial) contrafacta of Liberian Gio [Dan] songs, which were incorporated from other cultural practices and contexts and already played a role as motivational songs in the Liberian civil war. Special focus lies on the use of, the fluidity and formability of the songs, as well as the ingenuity of its performers to recontextualise these songs. By fitting the songs into their war experience, combatants render them meaningful despite obvious language barriers and beyond their textual properties.
The article is part of a very interesting special issue on music and armed conflict which is worth exploring in its entirety. In fact, the whole journal (Transposition) seems worth following, as it covers the intersection between music and social science.