Today, Entertainment and Tourism will throw a brief spotlight on the emergence of Liberian female artistes in the Liberian musical industry.
Since the 1960s, Liberia’s music industry has been a terrain purely controlled by men. Admittedly, we are mindful of the fact that before the influx of the soundtrack industry in that decade, women were mainly heading traditional music ceremonies.
However, the domination of the music industry by men, which has lasted for many decades, has not kept women from breaking barriers and making an impact while competing with their male counterpart’s head-on. This is not to trumpet any division between the men folks and the women folks in the Liberian music industry.
After about 10 years of domination over the industry by men, female musicians like Fatu Gayflor, Yatta Zoe and Miatta Fahnbulleh emerged in the 1970s to establish a strong female presence in Liberian music.
These women’s breakthrough stories came against the environment of warning cultural barriers and social stigmas that prevented them from pursuing music as a professional career.
Madam Fahnbulleh returned to Liberia in 1974 and quickly became a superstar. Following inline of Miatta Fahabulleh and the late Yatta Zoe, ‘Queen of Liberian Folks music, whose music were widely loved by Liberians, regardless of their age or faith, were others prominent female musicians who proved their worth.
‘Ma Zoe’, as she was popularly called, became known for the beat songs ‘You Took My Lappa’, ‘All the Pocket Pickers’ and ‘Young Girls Stop Drinking Laser’.
During the early days of the true emergence of Liberian music, it was essentially, characterized by a lack of respect for artists, especially, female musicians.
However, apart from the challenging circumstances Liberia music is faced with, the women folks were not incentivized to pursue their musical career.
One famous female Liberian musician who distinguished herself in the 1980s was Princess Fatu Gayflor, who performed at major musical venues and festivals around the world. Her nicknamed: ‘The Golden Voice of Liberia’, became actively involved with music at a tender age and learnt to play the ‘sekere’, a local musical instrument of the Sande society.
In 1978, at the age of 12, she was enlisted as a member of the Liberia National Cultural Troupe; where she honed her craft as a singer and went on to lead the group at the 1984 Louisiana World exhibition in New Orleans, US.
As one of Liberia’s most successful female musicians, Gayflor has released three celebrated albums, which continue to make an impact to this day.
At the end Liberia’s 14 years of civil war, which damage the music careers of the aforementioned artists, in 2003, a new generation of female musicians began to emerge. This new batch of artists included Tokay Tomah, Kanvee Adams, Queen V, Peaches and Sweetz, who laid the foundations for other female musicians in the country, such as Lady Murphy, Lady Skeet, Angie Tonton and J. Glo among other.
The late Tokay Tomah, who died in 2007, became popular for the hit songs ‘Chay Polo’ and ‘Open the Door’. Her career lasted more than a decade and saw her release six studio albums. Both of the above-mentioned songs, upon their release in early 2000, maintained a connection to traditional Liberian music amid emerging genres such as hipco.
Seeing that a member of the National Culture Troupe of Liberia at the beginning of her career, Tokay Tomah toured Europe, the US and several African countries during the 1980s while serving as a backing lead singer for well-known artists like Fatu Gayflor and Zaye Tete.
Queen V, the self-styled ‘Goddess of Hipco’, became the first female artist in the history of Liberian music to record a rap single, ‘Far Way to Go’, when opportunities for women in the hipco scene were scarce. Hipco is Liberia’s version of rap music, combining hip hop, R&B and traditional rhymes in local pidgin.
Another outstanding female artist is Kanvee Adams, who has fruitfully exported Liberian gospel music beyond the country’s borders. She is also the first Liberian gospel artist to be nominated at the prestigious Kora Awards.