Music of Liberia

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    The music of Liberia [1] uses many tribal beats and often one of the native dialects, or vernacular. Liberian music includes traditional Gbema music, [2] as well as the popular genre Hipco. [3]

    Vernacular common speech variety of a specific population

    A vernacular, or vernacular language, is the speech variety used in everyday life by the general population in a geographical or social territory. The vernacular is contrasted with higher-prestige forms of language, such as national, literary, liturgical or scientific idiom, or a lingua franca, used to facilitate communication across a large area. The vernacular is usually native, normally spoken informally rather than written, and seen as of lower status than more codified forms. It may vary from more prestigious speech varieties in different ways, in that the vernacular can be a distinct stylistic register, a regional dialect, a sociolect, or an independent language.

    Hipco, also referred to as HipCo or co, is a genre of hip hop from Liberia. It has been described by The Guardian as Liberia's "unique musical style" using "vernacular speech and political messages."


    Gbema music or traditional music

    The indigenous ethnic groups of Liberia can be linguistically divided into three groups: those in the west who speak the isolate Gola language and the Mel languages (particularly Kissi) and those in the east who speak Kru languages (particularly Bassa). To these must be added the Mande people (the Kpelle are Liberia's largest ethnic group) in the north as well as Liberian repatriates (Americo-Liberians, Congo, Caribbean).

    Liberia republic in West Africa

    Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,900,000. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.

    Gola is an erstwhile Atlantic language of Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is not closely related to other languages and appears to form its own branch of the Niger–Congo language family. However, Ethnologue lists Gola as a Mel language.

    The Mel languages are a branch of Niger–Congo languages spoken in Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The most populous is Temne, with about two million speakers; Kissi is next, with half a million.

    Liberian music makes particular use of vocal harmony, repetition and call-and-response song structure as well as such typical West African elements as ululation and the polyrhythm typical of rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa. Christian music was introduced to Liberia by American missionaries and Christian songs are now sung in a style that mixes American harmonies with West African language, rhythm and the call-and-response format. Traditional music is performed at weddings, naming ceremonies, royal events and other special occasions, as well as ordinary children's songs, work songs and lullabies.

    In music, a call and response is a succession of two distinct phrases usually written in different parts of the music, where the second phrase is heard as a direct commentary on or in response to the first. It corresponds to the call-and-response pattern in human communication and is found as a basic element of musical form, such as verse-chorus form, in many traditions.

    Ululation, from Latin ululo, is a long, wavering, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trilling quality. It is produced by emitting a high pitched loud voice accompanied with a rapid back and forth movement of the tongue and the uvula.

    Polyrhythm simultaneous use of two or more conflicting rhythms

    Polyrhythm is the simultaneous use of two or more rhythms that are not readily perceived as deriving from one another, or as simple manifestations of the same meter. The rhythmic conflict may be the basis of an entire piece of music (cross-rhythm), or a momentary disruption. Polyrhythms can be distinguished from irrational rhythms, which can occur within the context of a single part; polyrhythms require at least two rhythms to be played concurrently, one of which is typically an irrational rhythm. Concurrently in this context means within the same rhythmic cycle. The underlying pulse, whether explicit or implicit can be considered one of the concurrent rhythms. For example, the son clave is poly-rhythmic because its 3 section suggests a different meter from the pulse of the entire pattern.

    Highlife music is very popular in Liberia, as elsewhere in West Africa. It is a combination of North American, West African and Latin American styles, and emerged in the 1950s in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, especially among the Liberian Kru people, who were sailors that played Spanish guitar, banjo, pennywhistle, harmonica, accordion, mandolin and concertina. [4]

    Highlife is a music genre that originated in present-day Ghana early in the 20th century, during its history as a colony of the British Empire. It uses the melodic and main rhythmic structures of traditional Akan music, but is played with Western instruments.

    Ghana Republic in West Africa

    Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

    Sierra Leone republic in West Africa

    Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, informally Salone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea to the northeast. Sierra Leone has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savanna to rainforests, and a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and a population of 7,075,641 as of the 2015 census. The capital and largest city is Freetown, and the country is divided into five administrative regions, which are further subdivided into sixteen districts.

    Past and present musicians include Princess Hawa Daisy Moore, Fatu Gayflor, Nimba Burr, Tejajlu, Morris Dorley, Yatta Zoe, Anthony "Experience" Nagbe Gebah Swaray, Kandakai Duncan and Miatta Fahnbulleh. Of these, Dorley deserves special notice for having spearheaded a movement to create a national Liberian identity, alongside musicians such as Anthony "Experience" Nagbe. Dorley's popular songs include "Grand Gedeh County" and "Who Are You Baby".

    Fatu Gayflor Liberian musicians

    Fatu Gayflor is a Liberian singer. Dubbed "Princess Fatu Gayflor, the golden voice of Liberia", she has performed at major music venues and festivals throughout the world and has made a number of recordings.

    Miatta Fahnbulleh is a Liberian singer and social activist. As of May 2017, she was the interim coordinator of Concerned Citizens to Protect the Constitution.

    The country's most renowned radio station is ELBC, or the Liberian Broadcasting System. Rap and pop music are also performed in indigenous languages across the country.

    In 1963, President Tubman set up the new Cape-Palmas Military Band (CPMB). Israeli bandmaster Aharon Shefi formed and conducted a 56-piece concert and marching band that performed Liberian, American and universal folk and church music. The CPMB has performed on January 1, 1964, at President Tubman's inauguration in Monrovia. Among the pieces played were Highlife, original marches by the late Liberian composer Victor Bowya, the National Anthem and "The Lone Star Forever". The CPMB had also performed in churches, schools, holidays and military parades and official events.


    Liberia has a uniquely Liberian rap genre called Hipco, or "Co". [5] The "co" in the genre is short for the Liberian dialect Kolokwa. [6] Hipco is usually performed in Liberian English or the local vernacular. Hipco evolved in the 1980s and has always had a social and political bent. In the 1990s it continued to develop through the civil wars. [7] [8] Hipco music was becoming popular in 2000., and as of 2017, it was the popular music genre of Liberia, "serving as the medium through which rappers speak against societal ills, including injustice and corruption." [9] UNICEF has worked with Hipco artists to release Hipco songs on Ebola prevention, with several of the songs becoming popular on radio in the country in 2014. [10] Among high-profile Hipco artists are Takun J. [11] [12]

    See also

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    Palm-wine music is a West African musical genre. It evolved among the Kru people of Liberia, who used Portuguese guitars brought by sailors, combining local melodies and rhythms with Trinidadian calypso. Palm-wine music was named after a drink, palm wine, made from the naturally fermented sap of the oil palm, which was drunk at gatherings where early African guitarists played.

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    Invincible Eleven association football club in Liberia

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    1. "Liberia Music Download Homepage - Music Liberia". Music Liberia. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
    2. "Traditional/Gbema Archives - Music Liberia". Music Liberia. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
    3. "Hipco Archives - Music Liberia". Music Liberia. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
    4. "LiberianForum.Com ~ Liberian Information Online". Retrieved 2017-01-24.
    5. Rahimian, Nora (January 9, 2013). "Liberian street hit stirs the political pot". The Guardian . Retrieved March 18, 2019.
    6. Donahue, Bill (March 12, 2019). "Last year Trump called these countries a profane name. We sent a travel writer to celebrate them". The Washington Post . Retrieved March 18, 2019.
    7. Christopher Giamo (24 June 2011). "Takun J – Hip-Co in Liberia". Together Liberia. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
    8. Ashoka, "'Hipco' Is the Soundtrack of Monrovia's Post-War Youth", Vice, 2 April 2014.
    9. Dopoe Jr., Robin (January 19, 2017). "Liberia: Documenting Hipco". All Africa. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
    10. Cullinane, Susannah (October 21, 2014). "Using music to fight Ebola in Liberia". CNN . Retrieved March 18, 2019.
    11. "The Ease of Monrovia's 'Hipco' Clubs". The New York Times . November 4, 2017. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
    12. "'Hipco' Is the Soundtrack of Monrovia's Post-War Youth". Vice . March 30, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2019.