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The music of Liberiauses many tribal beats and often one of the native dialects, or vernacular. Liberian music includes traditional Gbema music, as well as the popular genre Hipco.
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."
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, 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 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.
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, 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, 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 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".The "co" in the genre is short for the Liberian dialect Kolokwa. 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. 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." 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. Among high-profile Hipco artists are Takun J.
Monrovia is the capital city of the West African country of Liberia. Located on the Atlantic Coast at Cape Mesurado, Monrovia had a population of 1,010,970 as of the 2008 census. With 29% of the total population of Liberia, Monrovia is the country's most populous city.
The culture of Liberia reflects this nation's diverse ethnicities and long history. Liberia is located in West Africa on the Atlantic Coast.
The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who originated in eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but also the Ivorian and Nigerian coasts. The Kru were famous for their skills in navigating and sailing the Atlantic. Their maritime expertise evolved along the west coast of Africa as they made livings as fishermen and traders. Knowing the in-shore waters of the western coast of Africa, and having nautical experience, they were employed as sailors, navigators and interpreters aboard slave ships, as well as American and British warships used against the slave trade.
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.
Tubmanburg, also known as Bomi and formerly known as Vaitown, is the capital of Bomi County in Liberia. It lies in the Bomi Hills northwest of Monrovia and was an iron ore and diamond mining centre until it was largely destroyed in the First Liberian Civil War. During the Second Liberian Civil War, it was the headquarters of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy rebel group. Most residents are members of the Vai tribe.
Hiplife is a Ghanaian musical style that fuses Ghanaian culture and hip hop. Recorded predominantly in the Ghanaian Akan language, hiplife is rapidly gaining popularity throughout West Africa and abroad, especially in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Germany.
Union of Invincible Eleven & Majestic Sports Association Inc. also known as Invincible Eleven (I.E.) is a football club from Liberia based in Monrovia. They are one of the founding members of football in Liberia, and the country's oldest club. Their home stadium is the Antonette Tubman Stadium. Invincible Eleven is one of Liberia's most popular and historic clubs, along with Mighty Barolle. George Weah, Liberia's most famous footballer, scored 24 goals in 23 games during a spell at I.E. early in his career, in the 1986/87 season.
New Kru Town is a northwestern coastal suburb of Monrovia, Liberia located on the north end of Bushrod Island. It is the only borough in Liberia.
The Liberian Entertainment Awards is an annual awards show, recognizing Liberians at home and in the diaspora for their outstanding contributions to the Liberian Entertainment Industry. The annual ceremony, held in the United States, features performances by established and promising artists. The LEA was founded in 2009 by Tarkus Zonen. The inaugural ceremony was held on January 31, 2009, at the Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Michael Davies, popularly known by his stage name Sundaygar Dearboy, is a Liberian hipco singer, songwriter and record producer from District 2, Grand Bassa County. He records primarily in Bassa and Liberian English. Dearboy has released several contemporary gospel songs. He produced "Let Us Vote Ma Ellen", the official campaign song for the Unity Party. The song was released during Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 2005 presidential campaign. Following the release of the aforementioned song, Dearboy's music career hit a political low for nearly four years. He revived his music career by releasing "Bayjay", a song endorsed by the Liberian populace. "Bayjay" won Song of the Year at the 2005 Liberian Entertainment Awards. Dearboy has released several studio albums, including See Boyee, Don’t Live With Woman (2007) and Rebirth (2012). He was named the Liberian Musician of the Year in 2005-2006, and has produced 13 albums to date.
Jonathan Koffa, better known by his stage name Takun J, is a Liberian recording artist, songwriter and activist. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of Hipco, a politically-charged music genre sung in vernacular Liberian English. The Liberian Gender Ministry designated him as one of its anti-rape ambassadors. Takun J uses music to address socio-political issues in Liberia. He is best known for his singles "Who Make You Cry", "Policeman", "Gbagba Is Corruption" and "A Song for Hawa", as well as for his rap verse on the collaborative single "Pot Not Boiling" (Remix). Takun J released his debut studio album The Time in 2007. His second studio album My Way was released in December 2012.
An epidemic of Ebola virus disease occurred in Liberia from 2014 to 2015, along with the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone. The first cases of virus were reported by late March 2014. The Ebola virus, a biosafety level four pathogen, is an RNA virus discovered in 1976.
Igbo highlife is a contemporary musical genre which combines highlife and Igbo traditional music. It first started off in the southeast region of Nigeria, during the 1950s. The genre is primarily guitar-based music, with rare characteristic blend of horns and vocal rhythms. Igbo highlife lyrics are sung mostly in Igbo with occasional infusion of Pidgin English. One of the most influential composers and performers of the music is Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe whose career spanned over 40 years. Osadebe's discography comprises numerous popular songs including the 1984 hit "Osondi Owendi" which launched him on the world stage as a pioneer of the Igbo highlife genre.
The Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has had a large effect on the culture of most of the West African countries. In most instances, the effect is a rather negative one as it has disrupted many Africans’ traditional norms and practices. For instance, many West African communities rely on traditional healers and witch doctors, who use herbal remedies, massage, chant, and witchcraft to cure just about any ailment. Therefore, it is difficult for West Africans to adapt to foreign medical practices. Specifically, West African resistance to Western medicine is prominent in the region, which calls for severe distrust of Western and modern medical personnel and practices.(see Ebola conspiracies below.)
Oscar Murphy Dorley is a Liberian footballer who plays as a midfielder for FC Slovan Liberec.
Christopher Christoph Nyenga, better known by his stage name Christoph The Change, is a Liberian rapper. After the release of the hip-hop song "Take a Break", he was criticized for sounding "too American". He gained mainstream success in Liberia after releasing the hipco songs "Papay God," "Heaven and Hell" and "Gbanna Man".
Sidney Kofi Ofori is a Ghanaian recording hiplife artist and entrepreneur known by the stage name Barima Sidney.
Karwoudou Cole, better known by his stage name Bucky Raw, is a Liberian rapper and songwriter from Monrovia. He rose to fame after appearing in a cypher at the 2016 Liberian Entertainment Awards. Raw has released two mixtapes: 2017's Country Soda and 2018's Cs2.