A New Song for Liberia

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“Liberia so mighty
Your energy is strong
You’ve never been forgotten
I’ve loved you all along…”

The above are lyrics to the reflective and soul searching song, “Forgotten,” written by a Liberian artist based in Yorkshire, England, Sarah Güsten-Marr.

This song, a reflection of the Liberian experience, creates awareness of long forgotten and marginalized people.

“Liberia is a unique country with a humble history, but our people have endured a lot, such as social and economic marginalization, civil war, disease and many more. This somehow gives the country some negative image out there,” Sarah told the Daily Observer in a telephone interview.

With “Forgotten,” Sarah delivers a soulful mixture of R&B and traditional African melodies.

Her exquisite vocals are complemented by the sweet and equally exquisite sounds of Mindy Homewood, daughter Josephine Marr and Libby Tomlinson. This grouping birthed what seems an effortless groove.

This delicate but powerhouse of vocalists, who did their thing smoothly over dope beats, will have music lovers who got soul dancing and doing their own renditions to the song. The track is perfectly written, with the various artists painting pictures with their words, demonstrating their ease with lyrical poetry. “Forgotten” was produced by UK producer John Robinson of CliqueUK Productions.

“The motivation behind the song ‘Forgotten’ is to create awareness for the people who have been marginalized. This is a song dedicated to the Liberian people, written by one of their own,” she said. With the song, Sarah hopes to unite Liberians through the positive change preached throughout the song.

Sarah said she has been working with award winning international filmmaker Dave Thorpe to shoot a video that would complement the song. The video brings together a group of internationally acclaimed artists.

Also part of the video is music legend and guitarist, Junior Marvin. He was reggae icon Bob Marley’s guitarist.

“Marvin has been a wonderful mentor for me, and I’m so glad that I’m working with him during the creation of ‘Forgotten,’ a song written for my country, Liberia, the country of my birth,” she said.

Sarah also revealed that she is working on another project, the “Great Nelson Mandela Project,” with Marvin.

Added to the list of stars in the video are Indian dance queens, Zubia and Shazia Naqiu. “They flew from Holland and Italy respectively to be a part of the process,” added Sarah.

She said Thorpe has been very professional throughout the process, bringing out a lot of personality to the shoot, adding: “The first shoot is always the hardest.”

“It will truly be a great honor to be helpful in my own country of Liberia. Over the years, Liberia has received a serious amount of negative press and it is time for Liberia to change this view in the eyes of the world,” she said, adding: “Liberia’s legacy is truly humbling considering why the country was established in the first place.

“When I wrote my song I felt it would be an honor to remember in a song the lives that have been lost, and the lives that are still struggling in Liberia. I want to make sure they are never forgotten. ‘Forgotten’ is a song dedicated to the Liberian people, written by one of their own.”

Music, she said, is a wonderful way to touch the human spirit. “I am hoping that my song/video will bring together the Liberian people and create positive change.”

Sarah was born in January 1970 to a Bassa couple in Liberia, but her story almost came to an end before it actually started. “My biological mother died in childbirth while giving birth to me and my father was unable to take care of me,” Sarah said.

Tiny and sickly, Sarah was discovered by a German couple, Rolf and Michaela Güsten, who adopted her from her father. The Güstens already had two beautiful daughters but still decided to adopt Sarah.

This is where Sarah’s life took a new and positive turn.

Sarah grew up happy, with a charmed life travelling the world with her new family. She lived in Germany, Ivory Coast, the USA and Italy before finally settling in England.

She adores her adopted mother, calling her an angel from heaven, while having some fine words for her father and sisters. “When my mother heard my story, she said, ‘bring her to me.’ I had cholera and malaria and they had to take me to hospital in Monrovia,” she added.

Sarah was a creative child and always loved painting. She studied fashion at university.

Sarah returned to Liberia for the first time in 45 years last October. Her trip to Liberia focused on health education and negotiating for the establishment of the Liberian Arts and Crafts Society, which aims to promote indigenous talent.

She always stressed that some of the best art comes from the most disadvantaged places. “Everywhere there is poverty, you will find some of the best music. Art is a great healer,” she said. Sarah intends to personally fund art prizes in an effort to unearth the best Liberian talents.

“If someone comes from a small village and their art gets admired or acknowledged in the new Liberian Arts Center, and they win a prize, that brings hope.”

Upon her visit, Sarah’s song, “Forgotten,” received maximum airtime on various radio stations including Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), Sky FM and others.

“I felt it would be an honor to remember in a song the lives that have been lost and the lives that are still struggling in Liberia. I want to make sure they are never forgotten,” she told the Daily Observer during her visit.

“I want to help promote Liberia to the wider world and show a side not often seen,” she said. She believes her story will inspire others, especially artists.

While in Liberia, she also visited an orphanage. “We have a lot of orphans here as a result of the prolonged civil crisis and the recent Ebola outbreak, which nearly ripped our country apart. I was one – and one of the lucky ones. It’s my duty to make a difference for them,” she said.

Sarah said her coming back after 45 years was not to discover who she is, but to make a difference, to encourage and to educate.

Sarah is artistically gifted. She owns a visual art establishment, known as Gallery GM, in Yorkshire, England. She runs Gallery GM from her new base in the Vale of York.

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