Fatu Gayflor


Fatu Gayflor


(b. 1966)

Fatu Gayflor started to sing in her home village of Kakata, in northwestern Liberia. Her mother sang around the home, and "when she was happy" and Fatu became a singer early. A member of the Lorma ethnic group, she was instructed in ritual and songs, and in playing the sasa (sekere), as part of the Sande society as a young girl. In 1978, a woman from the Liberian National Cultural Troupe (a dance and music performance ensemble), touring the country to find new talent, was impressed with the 12-year-old Fatu and recruited her to come to Keneja, the national art village and the home of the National Troupe, where she studied traditional praise songs, wedding songs, laments, and so on. She learned songs from 16 ethnic groups across Liberia, and became a lead singer for the Troupe. Her talents led to her selection to come to the United States with the Troupe to perform for the Louisiana World Fair in 1984.

She recorded her first two albums in Liberia, singing traditional songs with both local and imported instruments to appeal to younger Liberians. Her third recording was made in the Ivory Coast, where she lived for a while in a refugee camp following the eruption of the civil war in Liberia. In that recording, guitars and synthesizers are used as well because the producers in the Ivory Coast wanted to give the traditional melodies a world beat sound. These records are widely known and beloved among dispersed Liberian communities: in Liberia, Fatu was known as "Princess Fatu Gayflor, the golden voice of Liberia."

Having lived in the Ivory Coast and in Guinea (also as a refugee), she sings traditional songs of many places. Now a resident of the U.S., she performs for Liberian ceremonies and celebrations in North America. She has performed in the Folklore Project's Philly Dance Africa program and taught at the Folk Arts Cultural Treasures Charter School through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts/Arts in Education program.

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