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Nigerian Singer And Youth Prison Reformer Lamboginny Brings Crusade To The US

Lamboginny (center) comforts young prisoners at Nigeria's Ikoyi Prison

A Nigerian musician, who regularly performs for young prison inmates in his native country, will make his American debut early next month in Connecticut.

Lamboginny (pronounced like the Italian sports car), or “Lambo” is a superstar in his native Nigeria. Born Yinka Lawanson, the Lagos native mixes inspirational and uplifting lyrics with catchy afrobeat rhythms. He draws inspiration from artists like the late Bob Marley, and fellow Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.

Lamboginny is also a humanitarian, and has used his star power to advocate for young people imprisoned in Nigeria. He said back in the 2000s, he approached the government about reaching out to these youth through his music.

“I started organizing concerts in prisons,” said Lamboginny, “and so many Nigerian celebrities were following me to the prison. You know, I go and be into it, because I love the fact that I was putting smiles on faces of the helpless inmates.”

Lambo’s willingness to work with the Nigerian government, and his squeaky clean image (he professes to abstain from alcohol and drugs), has earned him access to these young prisoners. Lambo has been outspoken about the conditions in the facilities where they are housed, and the need to give these young offenders a second chance.

Lambo's nonprofit SALT (Saving All Lives Together), raises money to bring music therapy programs to Nigerian youth prisons. SALT also pays the fines of young people held in prison for minor offenses like street begging, as well as the legal fees of young people who may have been wrongly convicted.

“At some point I started fighting for some inmates that do not have to be in prison. I started fighting for them to get freedom, and started getting freedom for them,” said Lambo.

So, it seems only fitting that Lamboginny's American debut is at a benefit concert for Family ReEntry, a Bridgeport nonprofit that provides support services for individuals transitioning out of prison and their families. Executive Director Jeff Grant said hosting Lamboginny in Connecticut helps to shine a light on the international issue of prison reform.

“The issues are not specific to Nigeria, and they're not specific to our country,” said Grant. “We can learn a lot from one another in terms of both the mistakes that we've made, and the successes.”

Lamboginny performs two shows on Saturday June 9, at Norfield Congregational Church in Weston.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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