For a very long time, Liberia’s stage and marketplace was dominated by foreign music but Sundaygar Dearboy emergence on the scene has changed that! Demand for indigenous Liberian music has increased and the quality has improved. For millions, his repertoire makes him the authentic and germane artist they want to hear.
There hasn’t been any Liberian music in recent memory that amplified the sentiments of the people more than “Bayjay,” they said. The song has helped Liberians rediscover and redefine themselves as a people and a country; fans take solace in the music because it represents the culture and heritage of the country.
It was nearly five years ago, when Sundaygar released Bayjay. For an unknown artist, the album became an instant hit! Although sang in Bassa, a Liberian vernacular, it was beautiful and appealing. Everyone loved it and felt spellbound by the kind of “Liberianness” never experienced. To date, he remains the country’s leading performing artist. The hottest and most talked about. More than any other artist, his music and messages promote Liberian arts, culture and tradition. The goal, he said is to “help transform people to positive mood.”
Sungygar was born in 1972 in Monrovia and grew up in the city. He visited his grandparents regularly in the village where he had the opportunity to experience the rich culture and traditions of his ancestors. He said that singing under the moonlight, storytelling, and the processions at funerals all helped informed his music. He is a brilliant speaker and articulate artist; he demonstrates an excellent command over both the Bassa and English. He reads and writes both.
He has observed that Liberians living abroad preferred indigenous music while those living in the country support foreign music. “Outside Liberia, my music is highly appreciated and supported by those who think my music helps virtually transport and reconnect them with their homeland. I find it gratifying that they support me. However, it is very disappointing that such support is not given to my music or artists locally” he says.
Despite less support locally, he believes that his music compensate in other areas. The overall message his music preaches is the preservation of Liberian culture and tradition. “I also think that my music comes fore front as we rebuild our lives and try to reconsolidate our culture and tradition,” he says,
Dearboy’s renditions are anthem for many Liberians. The music appreciates Liberia heritage and demonstrates the love for the country’s culture and traditions unapologetically and uncompromisingly. In Bayjay, a national spirit is resurrected! Fans say. And it licensed Liberians to celebrate the beauty of their language, and display a patriotic ecstasy through a song, which many have believed paved the way for accepting similar music once ignored.
According to Mathhew Lavoie an author of Lost Liberian 45s from the 1960s, Liberian indigenous songs were ignored up to the 1960s. “Americo-Liberians still had no interest in the indigenous music. The Liberia Broadcasting Corporation, for example, almost exclusively featured North American music until Morris Doley’s whose ‘Who Are You Baby’ changed that and paved the way for Richard Walker, Harris Sarko, etc. Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh once wrote that why Doley and other Liberian artists were trying to gain prominence, Sherman Brown hosted “Name That Tune,” on the Liberian Broadcasting Corporation (ELBC) that awarded monetary compensation to contestants who correctly gave the names of Western artists and their music. He said further, that he wasn’t aware of any show that awarded a price to a contestant for correctly naming the tune of music by a local Liberian artist.
Many believe that Sundayga’s music sounds like some of his predecessors: Morris Dolly, Caesar Gartor, Fatu Gayflor, T-Kpan Nimely, etc. Many are drawn to his songs and his messages. It resonates more with Liberians. Sundaygar coined and woven with allegories and fables; the songs provide commentaries on life, social situations and relationships. Its satirical configuration is traditional to many African art forms. In Bayjay, for example, he kept the structure of the language in place but free styled the melody and tone:
No matter what you sacrifice for your own people
When you leave they want to talk about you
When you ascend they want to see you descend
And even if you given them your last
Yet they are not appreciative
But except God didn’t create me as a child
That is the only way I will suffer
The moon will still shine
Even if it goes under the cloud
The artist writes his own lyrics in both Bassa and English. He sometimes composes a song within hours. Others take days, sometimes weeks. He uses a variety of mediums and creative processes to write and record his songs; the process starts from recordings on his phone to scribbling on a notepad before going to the studio. He has produced 13 albums. His first album was gospel songs sang in Bassa based on the book of Corinthians in the Holy Bible.
Artists like Sundaygar faced obstacles making music in Liberia. There is a poor quality of production, less artistic creativity and lack of competitions, he says. “Not many local artists listen to other music and try to emulate or learn from them. Plus, the local market is not accustomed to promoting what belongs to them. They prefer something from outside. Perhaps, the generally quality of production does not meet the standard as those produced in other countries.”
He says supporting and sponsoring local artists will help the artists to produce better music. He has his own studio but doesn’t have studio engineers. He produces his music in Ghana; He is in negotiation with engineers from Nigeria who will come to Liberia and work and help train Liberian engineers make better music or sound. Good engineers, he believes, are the prime foundation going forward. They produce good artists and good artists make better songs that sell.
Prospects for recording artists are high. First, the entertainment industry needs to be structured to support the artists and properly services the fans. The industry has to also be marketed in a better manner to demonstrate its benefits to the Liberian economy and consumers. One example he cites is that the copyright law is partially working.
Sundaygar tours regularly for fans outside the country. He is a father of two children and guardian of several other kids. He cooks and loves pepper soup. He likes watching adventure and horror movies during his spare time. For comedy, he likes ‘court room drama’.
He credits his first producer, Charles Reeves for helping him to transition to a secular music. He appreciates the support of his fans and recognizes Mr. Matthew Sneh, Of the Bronx, (New York) Mrs. Jo and Mr. Joseph Sinyan of Wheaton Mary land, Dr. And Mrs. Janet Zumo of Baltimore MD, and Mrs. Medina Wesseh of Monrovia who are benevolent supporters.
‘Genius of Goodness’ is his next album that will be released by the end of the year. The album he said, pays homage to people who helped Liberia during the crises or those who come to the aid of others.