Prior to the Liberia civil upheaval more than two decades ago, Malawala Balawala was a household name in Liberia. It was a local drama produced and screened in Liberia on ELTV the national television station during weekends.
Its central characters Balawala, Karmon Soko, Ma Garmai and Oldman Gondah, attracted thousands of viewers including the little kids in the mid 1980’s because they truly Liberialized whatever did to ensure good reception of the message.
Attracted by the television drama, one of Liberia’s foremost producer and recording artist, Steve Worjloh, otherwise known as “Big Steve” added more taste by producing a song which went wild among the entire population to include areas of the country which did not receive television signals.
The Liberian civil crisis, however, interrupted the good dream of Mr. Kerkura Kamara (Pictured), the brain behind the drama who fled into safety.
While in exile, Mr. Kamara and a few members of his group reorganized and began live performances as a way of consoling themselves and other distressed Liberians.
With the restoration of peace, Kerkura Kamara and his group are back in Liberia under the name Balawala International.
New Dawn Entertainment, in this edition, features Mr. Kamara as he discusses the status current status of Balawala International:
ND: Welcome to the New Dawn interview sir.
KK: Thank you.
ND: Of late, not much has been heard about your group. What is the present status of the group as we speak?
KK: Well, we just want to say thank you for this opportunity. Last December, we returned from the United States of America where we participated in the ACANA, that is the African Culture Alliance of North America festival held in Pennsylvania on August 2nd 2010 .Balawala received the Culture Excellence award of ACANA. During that trip, three Liberian artists and I represented the organization.
The other artists were Liberia’s 2007-2008 Star is born winner, Moses Swaray, international reggae star A. B. Swaray and the Bassa Kling Singer, Cecil Gartoh . We returned in December after six months and then we went to Free Town where we invited to discuss our participation in Sierra Leone’s Independence Day celebration in April.
Presently, the troop is on camp at Fendall in Mount Barclay, outside Monrovia. About 35 dancers, drummers, acrobatic dancers, as well as traditional folk singers are undergoing rehearsal of new dance dramas, etc., etc. As I speak to you now, we are preparing to start the Balawala Malawala film Production. While in the States we managed to recover some of our old productions and we’re going to make use of them by screening them on television. We’ve been engaging the management of Sky TV.
We think there can be sponsorship to help to up keep the artists on camp because we’re spending a lot of money to maintain 35 persons and others. As I speak to you also, we have started engaging some good-will people and companies for assistance, including Madam Medina Wesseh who has assured us of her monthly contribution of US$100, 00 following receipt of our communication to her. We’re also appealling to other businesses to come in and help us in our new production. We are back now and ready to show-case our talents.
ND: What is your main focus right now? Since in-fact, you speak about artist and at the same time film.
KK: True, we are concentrating on music and the production of a dance drama. A dance drama that will be choreographed by Karmon Soko under by direction.
ND: What will be the name of the dance crew, and also the film group?
KK: The name of the dancers will be Balawala International Dance Company, while the play is called the One -the Elephant and the Lion, a story written by Mrs. Aliceson Brown-Sirleaf, last performed for President Sirleaf, the Republic of Liberia and her guests at the Executive Mansion during the special banquet. We are preparing the second phase of this dance drama and of course with our own input and new costumes. In three month’s time, we will be showcasing or launching that particular drama. On the music side as I speak to you, Liberia’s international reggae star, A.B. is preparing his band in Abidjan.
ND: How many movies have you put out for this group?
KK: Well, we have produced a total of 35 episodes of the Malawala Balawala and during the war; we produced the Forbidden Island and Monkonjay. In 2002, along with the Flomo Theater and Orura Production, we were able to produce more than 27 episode of a television series called “We’re On it.”
So far, these are things we have been able to do since 1988. But we’re working right now on the new series.