“The Queen of the Stage” – Tokay Tomah is one of Liberia’s finest musicians. This daughter of Nimba County is called “The Queen of the Stage”, because when she gets on stage, she wins the most difficult and critical spectators over. She has been talking to the New Dawn about her career in an exclusive interview.
ND: When did you start singing?
TTK: I started music in 2002, but before I went solo in 2002 I was backing Nimba Bird, Fatu Gayflor, and Zaye Teetee in the 80’s. When those people left, I decided to carry on, and here we are today. I learnt a lot from them.
ND: So you have been in music for more than thirty years now?
ND: You are one of the doyens of Liberian music.
TTK: Of course.
ND: How many albums do you have on the market?
TTK: I have six albums. The last on the market is entitled, “open the door.”
ND: Why open the door?
TTK: If you follow my musical history, I like to talk about things that affect people on the daily basis. I deal with the day to day activities of the people. Bad things happen in the society, if you don’t come out and talk about it, people will not know their wrong doings.
Like “Chichi polay”, that is the talk of the time. People go in the corner, behind the scene; they talk a lot about you. I decided to bring this in music, telling everybody that this is not good. This is just how I go about educating people through my music. That should be the main objective of any good musician. Don’t sing just because you want to, but there should be a message.
ND: What are the difficulties you meet?
TTK: The difficulties we face as musicians of this country are first, sponsorship, because every good artist must have a sponsor if he or she wants to improve, because the cash involved in the promotion of an artist is not easily affordable. The second problem we face which is the most serious one is the piracy.
Without any sponsor, we fight on our own to produce an album, and the next day it illegally copied and fraudulently sold on the market. That is killing us. Because in this situation, you hear your music everywhere, people call and appreciate you, but you have nothing at the end of it. You don’t realize what you spent, because people have their own equipments to record and sell your music.
ND: In Liberia we mostly dance Ghanaian and Ivorian music. What is the problem?
TTK: This is the result of stigma put on Liberian music in the past. Liberian music was purely traditional, and no efforts were made to modernize it, or to have a mix of African and modern instruments. As result, people preferred to dance foreign music. But things are getting better now for us. In the night clubs, entertainment centers, people dance Liberian music.