Press Release

For immediate release
Contact Toni Shapiro-Phim: 215.726.1106 or

The Philadelphia Folklore Project presents:

(February 20, 2013) The Philadelphia Folklore Project presents noted Liberian recording artists and social justice activists in an evening of performance and discussion on Tuesday, March 5th, from 6 PM - 8 PM. The free event was originally scheduled to take place at the Folklore Project, but to accommodate community interest, it has been moved to The Cedar Works, 4919 Pentridge Avenue in West Philadelphia, just around the corner.

The program features Liberian singer/songwriters Fatu Gayflor, Zaye Tete and Tokay Tomah, who will share songs and stories of struggle and hope, and introduce the history and current concerns of the 35,000-strong local Liberian community. To listen to these musicians and to learn more, visit our artists' pages for Gayflor, Tete, and Tomah Also, view a PFP-produced video postcard about Zaye Tete and her work for peace: Thank You, West Africa.

During and immediately after the brutal back-to-back civil wars in their country in the 1980s and 1990s, Liberian artists harnessed the power of music to foster reconciliation. Some, including the artists presented in this program, dedicated their music to peace-building in refugee camps and in their homeland. They have continued to address inequities and violence through song, both in West Africa and here in Philadelphia, ever since.

As a result of the late-20th century turmoil, a number of performers from Liberia's National Cultural Troupe resettled in the Philadelphia region. The three Liberian women featured in this program were singers and dancers in the National Cultural Troupe, as well as renowned recording stars. They continue to draw on their traditions to compose and perform songs reflecting upon their personal and community histories.

Many local Liberians experience anti-immigrant bias, violence, racism, poverty, and deportations. There are high rates of gender violence and sexual assault. People's current circumstances stem in large part from the legacies of war, loss, exile and trauma. These issues are the subjects of these women's concerns, and their art-making.
Fatu Gayflor
The program on March 5th provides a chance to learn about the history and context of their music-making, to enjoy their performances of recent compositions, and to discuss the issues facing the Liberian community and all of us.

Fatu Gayflor
was recording an album in the Ivory Coast when war in her homeland of Liberia kept her from returning to her family. In the early 1990s, in exile, Gayflor traveled with the United Nations to refugee camps throughout West Africa, performing as a way of instilling hope in the Liberian refugee population. The World Food Program took Fatu to Milan, Italy, in 1996 to perform with artists from across Africa to publicize the continent's vast hunger crisis. Since moving to the U.S., she continues to compose and perform. Gayflor participated in a 2012 training on peace-building through the arts run by Brandeis University, and was honored that same year with a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award for her decades of art and social change work.
Zaye Tete

Zaye Tete was also a member of Liberia's National Cultural Troupe where she toured as a singer and dancer. Tete was living with her fellow National Cultural Troupe artists just outside the capital of Monrovia when she decided she had to escape the escalating violence. While in a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast, she started a Liberian children's cultural troupe. Tete also traveled from refugee camp to refugee camp, and even crossed back over the border into war-torn Liberia, to sing to soldiers to ask them to put down their weapons. Here in the U.S. she performs at Liberian celebrations and clubs, and continues to compose and record. Her most recent CD, entitled For the Sake of the Children, came out in 2011. She was awarded a Leeway Foundation Art and Change grant in 2009 to teach traditional songs and dances to Liberian American youth. In January, 2013, she returned from a three-week performance tour of Australia

Tokay Tomah started working with the United Nations on disarmament and reconciliation, through music, in the mid-1990s. In addition to her peace-building work, she carried out awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS, rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, and other issues, all through performance. She served as the executive director of a Liberian non-governmental organization, Women and Society, advocating for equity for women. She has produced seven CDs, and has been honored with awards from the Musicians' Union of Liberia, Africare Liberia, and the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture. Her 2010 album, Open the Door, shares a message about taking responsibility for one's impact on one's own community. While visiting the United States in 2007, Tomah was a featured speaker on a panel about the relationship between art and war at the University of Maryland. She moved to the United States permanently in 2011, and recorded her latest CD, What You Know About Me, in 2012.

Following a path elaborated by Nobel prize-winning women's rights activist Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, both of Liberia, and taking seriously how grassroots women's peace efforts, and women's agency and roles, alter how people collectively see past, present and future, Gayflor, Tete and Tomah are pleased to have an opportunity to engage with the public about their music and their commitment to making constructive change in the world.

Liberian Artists: Changing the World Through Song. Tuesday, March 5, 2013. 6 PM - 8 PM, The Cedar Works, 4919 Pentridge Street, Philadelphia, PA 19143. (One block south of Baltimore, off of 50th Street.) The program is FREE, however seating is limited. Plan to come a bit early to get a spot.

The Philadelphia Folklore Project is a 26-year-old independent public folklife agency that works to sustain vital and diverse living cultural heritage in communities in our region. PFP documents, supports, and presents Philadelphia-area folk arts and culture - including the arts of people who have been here generations and those who have just arrived. For more information, call 215-726-1106. Liberian Artists: Changing the World Through Song is produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and generous PFP supporters.

Photo captions: Fatu Gayflor, one of the Liberian recording artists who will be featured at the Folklore Project event. Photo by J. J. Tiziou. Zaye Tete at her Southwest Philadelphia home. Photo: Toni Shapiro-Phim. Tokay Tomah singing at a recent PFP program, June 2012. Photo: Toni Shapiro-Phim

Contact: Toni Shapiro-Phim, Program Specialist
Philadelphia Folklore Project, 735 S. 50th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19143
(215) 726-1106,

High-resolution photographs and additional information (including expanded artist bios) available:
Fatu Gayflor (photo)
Fatu Gayflor in concert (photo)
Zaye Tete (photo)
Tokay Tomah (photo)