- A man with a long hair.
I mean, very, very long hair. So long that it reaches the ground.
External factors are not the main thing for reggae man Abdul Selassie, but the dreadlocks are part of his personality and identity. “They are how people recognise me,” he says and bursts out in soulful laughter.
Abdul thinks his hair is a gift from God, and he wouldn’t dream of cutting it. He spent his childhood in the dark alleys of Gambia. However, the childhood spent on the streets did not make him resentful; on the contrary. He wishes to spread energy and the joy of life with his music.
“My experiences have made me strong,” says Abdul, who grew up without a mother or a father.
Abdul passionately and emotionally praised his current hometown and its residents to the whole nation on MTV3’s Talent Finland competition in the spring. This was almost as memorable a moment for the viewers as his energetic musical performance with guitarist Timo Haanpää.
This man from Gambia isn’t just passing through – he is here to stay. He works at the Uusikaupunki harbour, and during his free time, he likes to make music and do gigs with his reggae band.
Despite growing up in Africa, Abdul does not miss the tropical climate.
Even the upcoming dark polar night does not frighten him. In fact, he is so well adapted to the short days of the winter that he says he downright loves them.
“The darkness provides an opportunity for spirituality. I switch the lights off at home and spend time alone in peace with my thoughts.”
According to Abdul, life is about enjoying the simple things.
“You cannot buy happiness. You have to find it from within,” he says.
He has a child-like ability to get excited about the surrounding nature.
“Just think about the trees and leaves. How an entire life cycle is represented in one leaf. From the green spring to the marvellous colours of the autumn,” he says.
To this African man, snow and ice are old acquaintances, but one night he could hardly believe his eyes as he gazed into the strange light phenomenon in the Uusikaupunki sky.
“They were Northern Lights. An incredible sight. I even took pictures of them,” he says in wonder of this unforgettable sight.
For him, the sea is an important element and a force of nature, which is why he often gravitates towards water. This is easy for a resident of a city by the Sea of Bothnia. A moment spent in the fresh sea breeze of a coastal cliff refreshes the body and gives peace of mind.
Life has never been self-evident to Abdul. He says it’s a gift, and he wants to spend it helping others.
His laugh lines straighten, and his eyes fill with tears as he begins to talk about Gambia’s marginalised children. He has made it his mission to support the children, and it is currently his priority.
“Children are the future for all of us,” he says.
Abdul was already helping children when he lived in Gambia. Back then, he worked as a musician in a restaurant and invited children to his home to eat. He also founded Football Akademy and a football team with his friend. He is still closely involved and in daily contact with the team coach.
“All help, even something small, is welcome,” he says.
Abdul wholeheartedly hopes that every child could have a safe adult nearby who encourages them and cheer them on. He was living in the street as a child but was sheltered by his father’s sister, who died when Abdul was a teenager.
“It’s great to see when children get together to play football, and you can see how much they love it.”
Abdul wouldn’t change a thing in his life right now. He enjoys his job at the harbour and his band, who is like a family to him. There is no time for a girlfriend or life partner now, because in his spare time he wants to focus on helping Gambian children, and fight for them, as he puts it.
Finns may not always understand his lifestyle, stories and humour, but that doesn’t bother Abdul.
“I enjoy the small town and I like Finnish people because they are so honest and genuine. They’ll let you know if they like something, but also when they don’t. This is something I appreciate,” Abdul says.