This article explores political and aesthetic dimensions of the 'bubu music' made by Sierra Leonean émigré Janka Nabay while living in the United States from 2010 to 2017. It narrates Nabay's story while tracing granular flows of creative labour, collaboration, and negotiations of cultural and economic capital at some level of ethnographic detail. The central sections of the article excavate the complex and often non-linear labour that went into the production of his band's music, and gives readers a sense of the way Nabay himself intellectually framed this process. It ultimately argues that Nabay was a resilient but often-dehumanized subject who exemplified the cultural and economic cross-currents of 'World Music 2.0' in ways that set privileged Western values of artistic autonomy into vivid relief. As an economically precarious subject split between indigenous nationalism and Western forms of cultural capital, Nabay lived a life of profound contradictions, by turns dissenting and exuberant.