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Trending Liberian Song, “Photo”, Draws Multiple Socio-Political Interpretations

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Monrovia – Music, they say, is food for the soul. It also speaks to the conscience of society. So, when artists penned lyrics they seek to stimulate diverse emotions and probably inspire social change.


Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]


This is the case of a trending Liberian song making rounds on social media and gaining frequent radio plays.

“I posed for the photo but I can’t see myself in the photo”, is the line drawing the most traction from the track “Pose for the Photo”. Everyone familiar with the song is inferring different meanings.

And Jonathan Koffa alias Takun J, one of the three artists who wrote and recorded the song, says it’s about “every human perspective”.

“We sing songs that people relate to,” says Takun J, who is popular for making hits that point out social vices including corruption and bad governance. 

“The song is about our music scene; we’re seeing things that are not benefiting us – some of us put this music stuff together but out of a sudden, we are not seeing ourselves much in the photo and we’re seeing other people in the photo.

“I think everyone is trying to take the song on a whole political note; for me, I think everybody is entitled to their own feelings. And now the country is on another stage and we find people taking our song and switching it [and] connecting it to the politics and we think everybody is entitled to their own view.”

Forget Takun J’s perspective; everyone has a view. Some have found a political meaning to the song. Others attribute the lyrics to ingratitude they’ve suffered.   

The artists are aware that the song is drawing multiplicity of meanings. And they like that very much.

“Everybody is taking the song from a political point and I won’t stop anyone from doing that but from our point of understanding we are doing songs straightly about the music industry,” says Walter K. Wilson alias Colorful, who birthed the idea about the song. 

It came naturally like it often does with song writers, he said.

It’s about a scenario where you work hard to achieve a feat but don’t get to benefit from your labor. It’s a story of not entering the promise land although you maneuvered through the wilderness.  

“I think everyone is trying to take the song on a whole political note; for me, I think everybody is entitled to their own feelings. And now the country is on another stage and we find people taking our song and switching it [and] connecting it to the politics and we think everybody is entitled to their own view.”

– Takun J

While some attribute the song to contemporary politics, others are fitting the meaning into everyday life experiences.  

“When I walk in the streets, people see me and be like ‘my man, my relationship I had, me and the jue (girlfriend) were rolling but out of a sudden the jue just left when she found another don (boyfriend) so I’m not in the photo’. So, it’s like that guy has a different version of the song’s meaning,” explains Takun J.

“Another oldma saw me and said, ‘my son, I can be sweeping whole day, my people in the community cannot even look at me but another person came these few days and they are prioritizing the guy over me’.”

Colorful affirms, saying “dissatisfaction, disenchantment triggered us to write this song”. 

“It has so many interpretations, some people meet us on the street and tell us that they are not in the photo even though they were the ones that started the whole thing,” he said.

Nothing On D-12 US$30K

Amongst several controversies the song has sparked is the National Port Authority’s USS$30,000 payment to US-based Liberian artist D-12, who performed at this year’s independence celebration event.

Some have criticized the move, others have hailed it. Colorful says he’s has nothing against the artist. 

“He’s an artist and if the President sees the need that he is paid US$30,000 for his work then I see no problem with it,” he said.

For Takun J, the move was “100 percent perfect” because it improves the profile of Liberian artists.

“Back in the day when we were performing… they used to take Nigerians and Ghanaians and gave them US$90,000 and gave us only US$100 – we were not in photo but now we are getting in the photo because a Liberian artist is now getting US$30,000,” says Takun J, who has earned the nickname “Hipco King”.

Hipco is a mixture of Hip-hop and Liberian colloquial, otherwise known as Liberian English. This music genre surfaced at the end of the second phase of the Liberian civil war in 2003. Since then, it has become a conduit for artists to express their views about romance and social vices.

Artists can help build the image of the country by producing songs that speak about the positives, says Colorful, who also claims society is offering little to change the course of misconceptions amongst many young Liberians.

“We are not in the photo so we will definitely complain,” added Takun J, who’s confident the public review of the song will only grow.

‘Most Trending’ Song

Meanwhile, the song is breaking record. Just in less than a month, it has 4,433 views and over 20,000 downloads on popular Liberian music blog TunesLiberia.com

Elvis Juasemai, founder and CEO of TunesLiberia.com, says the song is in “very high demand”.

“The song is the most trending song…I feel like it’s just the social awareness about the song – a lot of people are talking about it. Other people were listening to the song but they didn’t catch the message or follow the message until quite recently,” he said.

Video Underway

The artists are working on the video. It will feature a storyline about betrayal and ungratefulness, they said.

Joseph Weah alias Joe Baby, who is expected to direct the film, doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag. He says the story will be one of “sacrifice and betrayal”.

“There are lot of interpretations about the song; we are just trying to point out ills in the society. When you worked for somebody and served them you deserve some payback,” said Joe Baby, who predicted that the song was destined to spark mixed reactions and interpretations when he auditioned.

And Juasemai, who created his blog to support the work of Liberian artists by making their music accessible to the public, says Liberian artists should pen songs to drive social change.

“Whether it is something that is educational or social, it is good because people will better understand your music than when you talk about things that are unreal and irrelevant to society,” said the young Liberian entrepreneur. 

For Takun J, who is still well-known for his popular anthem “They (Government) Lie”, is hopeful that before this newest hit fades away it will leave an indelible impact of the public. 

“At the end of the day the song will inspire people to make positive change before the song fades away. I hope the Liberian people get to grabs the actual nature of the song and also I pray to see myself in the photo.” 

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