Liberian identity for a new generation

Young people in Monrovia create a new music genre. Junior Freeman is at the heart of this musical revolution.

Monrovia, Liberia (Erik Cleves Kristensen, Flckr CC).

Liberian music is going through a creative explosion. Cultural singers are taking to the studio and creating an exciting, high-energy, danceable sound. Young urban folks have invented a local Hip-Hop style called Hipco which talks to their reality, and reinvents Liberian identity for a new generation. Sometimes the two meet with exciting results. With a wealth of creativity in the Liberian music scene, what the artists lack is exposure.

“Dumyarea” means “that’s my area” in Liberian English. It is a common phrase in the market where sellers yell it out to stake their place. Today, it is the most heard phrase on the streets of Monrovia, and the name of the song most played throughout the country. And when I say most played, I mean there is no escaping, any time of day.

Jbdodane (Flickr CC).

Liberian singer, Junior Freeman (and his partner African Soldier?) has taken the country the storm this election season. So much so that the president, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, used Freedman’s hook from “Dumyarea” in the launch of her re-election campaign. He performs a style called Gbema which is what happens when music from Liberia’s ethnically diverse interior meets computer-based music production software.

Beyond the infectious rhythm, the genius of the song is in the simple yet socially relevant lyrics, that speak to all walks of life. “Everybody got they’re own area… some people area is to be Senator …  some people area is to go up and down the street.” It’s the kind of populist anthem that everyone can get down to, and whenever it comes on, people do. This unity through music and culture is really a sight to behold in a fairly divided society.

Further Reading

The culture wars are a distraction

When our political parties only have recourse to the realm of identity and culture, it is a smokescreen for their lack of political legitimacy and programmatic content. It is cynically unpolitical, and it’s all bullshit.