On August 9th, 2016 I visited Liberia, about eight months after it was declared Ebola Free. My VOA colleague Jackson Mvunganyi and I went as a team to learn the role music played during and after the epidemic that ravaged that country in 2014-2015.
We held a Town Hall meeting and over six days met with youths and musicians in Monrovia and neighboring regions.
I met over a dozen musical artists and interviewed six of them in Monrovia. Each had their own unique experience within their communities during the active Ebola period and its aftermath. Music indeed played a powerful and positive role throughout the crisis, but conversely, the epidemic had a powerful impact on the music industry and the lives of Liberian artists.
In the next few posts, I will focus on several of the artists interviewed. But here its all about 24 year old Teddy Ride.
“I had talent in high school and I was always thinking about how to get started on my songs. Okay so all of a sudden I came up to town and then I saw this engineer. I had money on me. Everybody never wanted to work because it was Ebola time. But I still stay with the whole program with the little money I had. and then people said ‘ okay let’s go to the studio hear what he got. And then when I start there, my very first song was a hit.”
That hit song was “Pretty Mama” . . .
“The Ebola period caused our entertainment industry to grow. Now people don’t often by Nigerian digs: other countries’ movies. Liberian movies are on the rise…and some artists like me have our fame … and we still got thousands and thousands of people who follow our songs all over Liberia. So it now goes to us, even though we came up small, but now its almost like a responsibility…something we need to do.” Teddy Ride.
Teddy gives much of the credit for his success to Ebola. “Ebola helped make some of us popular,” he said. “Back then everybody was glued to the radio. Everybody was listening to the radio.”
People stayed inside their homes during the height of the epidemic for fear of catching the virus. So Teddy enjoyed massive, captive audiences with his new songs. Here’s Teddy alongside Margaret Cephus and Amazin’ after our interview doing a drop for MTIA.
Another important thing about Teddy Ride is he’s a hipco artist. What’s Hipco? Teddy described is this way: “Hipco is music that speaks to people’s minds.” In more technical terms, hipco is the Liberian style of Hip Hop. Its been around since the 1980s. Hip is borrowed from American English and –co comes from coloquois (or kolokwa), the most common pidginized form of Liberian English.
The Town Hall was well attended by groups of engaged youths, both men and women.
Listen here to the Music Time in Africa radio feature on Ebola and music in Liberia featuring Teddy Ride and also Amazin’ and Quincy B.