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]

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).

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.

Popular music

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]

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".

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.


Rap and pop music are also performed in indigenous languages across the country, with a generation of artists a creating their own style of uniquely Liberian rap music called Hipco (or "Co"). Hipco is usually performed in Liberian English or the local vernacular, using the style of communication with which Liberians speak and relate to each other. 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, and today stands as a definitive mark of Liberian culture.[5][6]

Some young Liberians who have come to prominence through their charismatic Hipco messages are Cralor boi CICLuckay Buckay, Takun-J, IamDred, Bone Dust, Red Rum, Kenny Da Knowledge Noy-Z, Real Mighty, Mighty Blow, Picador, Benevolence, Sundaygar Dearboy and T-Five. These rappers have been able to remind their listeners and fans about the history of Liberia.

Songs such as "Advice" by CIC,"Behold Behold" by Luckay Buckay, "It Not Right" by Takun J featuring Luckay Buckay, and "Technique" by Bone Dust have been among the many prominent songs that have told people of the government lack of consciousness for her people, prostitution, jealousy, hatred, envy and fornication all over Liberia.

See also


  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. ^ Christopher Giamo (24 June 2011). "Takun J – Hip-Co in Liberia". Together Liberia. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  6. ^ Ashoka, "'Hipco' Is the Soundtrack of Monrovia's Post-War Youth", Vice, 2 April 2014.
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