Special Feature

Lost Liberian 45s from the 1960s

The urban dance music of the time reflected the Americo-Liberians trans-Atlantic cosmopolitanism. (In the early 1960s Americo-Liberians still had no interest in Liberia’s ‘African’ music. The Liberian Broadcasting Corporation, for example, almost exclusively featured North American music.) At their frequent performances, at the Ducor hotel ballroom, at the Saturday Afternoon Club (a sea-side dancing hall in the Palmgrove neighborhood, generally called the SAC), or at the Mama Rena dancehall, bands like J. Richard Snetter’s ‘Melody 8 Dance Band’ kept their fans entertained with a repertoire of American Soul and Country covers, Twists, Foxtrots, Cha-cha-chas, Highlife, and the occasional Calypso.

By the mid-1960s Monrovia was demographically and musically changing, as thousands of rural migrants, growing weary of working on up-country rubber plantations, started to move to the capital. These migrants brought their musical traditions with them, and once settled in Monrovia, soon discovered new musical styles. One of the first musicians to break away from covers of American songs and record ‘Afro-Liberian’ music was Morris Dolly, from Bomi County, not far from Monrovia. A member of the Golla ethnic group, Dolly was also one of the first artists to sing in several different Liberian languages. In 1977 he gained regional recognition, with the performance of his song ‘Who are you baby?’ at the Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC), held in Lagos, Nigeria. Morris had another big hit in the mid-1980s with ‘Osia’, and passed away about five years ago.

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