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Wednesday 6 March 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 28 - Liberia

We've over halfway, folks - 28 countries into our 55 country tour. At some point between Lesotho and Liberia we crossed a metaphorical Equator as well as the literal one. 

To mark the occasion I'm messing with the format a little. All the videos are from the same band, and that is the band that is probably Liberia's most successful musical export.

Soulful Dynamics relocated from Monrovia to Hamburg in 1969, and the very next year they topped the charts in many European countries with "Mademoiselle Ninette". You could not possibly tell from their hits that the band were from Africa - mostly they sound like a schlager version of The Equals - but they have some fantastically cheesy clips on YouTube.

Our audio selection starts with the woman rightly known as "the Golden Voice of Liberia", Princess Fatu Gayflor. Ms Gayflor (she's not a real Princess) has been recording since the mid 1980s. This track is on her 2014 album "The Princess Diaries", and my guess is that is is a tribute to Liberia's national arts ensemble, the Kendeja National Cultural Troupe, where she started her career.

Like many other Liberians she fled the country during the civil war that dragged on for nearly fifteen years (1989-2003). Having spent some time in refugee camps in Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, she eventually ended up in Philadelphia where she is still based.

In 2013 the Princess was joined in Philadelphia by Marie Nyenabo, another fine female singer who had released three albums in Liberia before deciding to emigrate. Together they were founder members of the Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, who use traditional songs and dances to call attention to issues impacting the Liberian community in the US.

"Joya" can be found on the 2011 compilation album "Lone Stars Vol 1: Hipco & Gbema" (hipco being Liberian hip hop and gbema modernised traditional music). Also to be found on the album is the track from Junior Freeman which was apparently impossible to avoid in Liberia that year, even being adopted by the victorious Presidential candidate as her campaign song for national elections. 

2011 was evidently a good year for Liberian music because that was when the exotically named Kojato & The Afro Latin Cougaritas released their excellent "All That Jazz" album. Main man Kojo Samuels hails from Monrovia but the band were based in Germany. Who knows, maybe they included some descendants of the Soulful Dynamics. 

The influence of Fela Kuti is pretty obvious on "All That Jazz", which is perhaps not surprising when you learn that Mr Samuels played with the Great Man for a while after his previous group Kapingbdi broke up in 1985. A few years back Sonorama Records compiled some of Kapingbdi's previously unreleased recordings from 1979 to 1981 on an album titled "Born In The Night". Very good they are too.

We end as always with some Mandatory African Reggae (there is a limit to how much messing with the format I'm willing to do). A very warm welcome please to Nasseman, former winner of Best Reggae/Dancehall Artist of the Year at the prestigious Liberia Music Awards - where Kojo Samuels was deservedly given a Lifetime Achievement Award last year.

"Kendeja" - Princess Fatu Gayflor

"Joya" - Marie Nyenabo

"Dumyarea" - Junior Freeman & African Soldier

"Funky Man" - Kojato & The Afro Latin Cougaritas 

"Deadea" - Kapingbdi

"Justice" - Nasseman


  1. Brave of the boy to wear his PJs in the second video

  2. The first two tracks have been very enjoyable.

  3. Was Kojato, in his amazingly funky song, singing about smelling goats at one stage in the song?

    1. What he says is that African funk "smells like the goat you just killed in the corner" and also like "dried monkey in the market". He appears to mean this as a compliment to African funk.

      You might want to make sure Parsley and Fiona are safely out of earshot if playing it again.

    2. I am at our town residence, so Parsley and Anita were spared

  4. The dance moves in that first video are so simple even Mr CC and myself could master them

  5. I'm impressed that you made it all the way through this post without mentioning the Michael Jackson son at all.

    1. Why would I mention either Prince or Blanket Jackson? If I was going to mention the latter it would have been in the post on Lesotho where they are famed for their blankets.

    2. Being a rather geographically naive teenager, I always thought Jackson's Liberian Girl was about a girl he met in the library. Being as I spent a lot of time hanging round in libraries on the off-chance I might meet a nice girl there, this appealed to me.

    3. Ah! You meant song not son! That makes more sense

    4. Ah. I see the confusion now. More haste, less speed.

  6. Halfway there - Living on a Prayer