Balawala International (BI), a household name in the Liberian movie and entertainment industry, which comprises the Balalawa International Cultural Dance and Traditional Communicators, is poised to hit the scene heavier than ever before.
Balawala is best known as the producer of the widely viewed Malawala Balawala television series, with central characters Balawala, Karmon Soko, Ma Garmai and Oldman Gondah and Kekura Kamara, alias “Balawala”, has also through its numerous activities contributed immensely towards the peace and stability that the country now enjoys, even though the group itself suffered the negative effects of the 14 years of civil brouhaha.
First though, during the nationwide Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (DDRR) process, the cultural dancers and traditional communicators of BI were among the many local organizations contracted by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) that went through the different trenches to preach the messages of disarmament and the need for lasting peace as a nation. Working with the UNMIL Public Outreach Department proved successful as the combatants agreed to disarm and succumb to peace. The Cultural troupe further played a significant role in the rehabilitation of war weary Liberians during the crisis at refugees camps in Guiglo and Danane in Cote D'Ivoire and Buduburam, Ghana.
Also, the group is one among many that has been instrumental in past years in creating awareness around HIV/AIDS through the spread of prevention and care messages.
Furthermore, Balawala was one of the front liners in preaching preventive messages of the Ebola virus diseases (EVD) as it went into various communities across Monrovia and its environs as well as counties across Liberia to inform locals about the deadly nature of the disease; hence, information provided by the group helped to break the barriers of denial, traditional beliefs as well the myths surrounding the disease. Same was also done during the corona virus disease (covid-19).
Among other things, BI has been part of different traditional communicators that have been creating awareness on the Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as well as conducting civil and voters’ education to scores of Liberians, so as to enable them freely fully exercise their civil franchise.
Counting on the past achievements, the noble cultural dance group in 2009 received the Culture Excellence award at the African Culture Alliance of North America (ACANA) festival held in Pennsylvania in the United States of America (USA) and of recent the “Life Time Comedy Award” from the hands of top international comedian Giant German Gina, an iconic award by the Liberia Movies Union (LIMU).
On the trip to receive the ACANA Excellence Award, Director Kamara traveled to the US along with three artists including Bassa King singer Caesar Gartor and Moses Swaray (both deceased) and Liberia International Reggae Artist Mustapha AB Swaray.
On the heel of the many successful stories, ED Kamara has announced that the group is poised to bounce back in all shapes and forms.
Executive Director Kamara said in order to keep the memory alive and to keep inspiring the new group of comedians and artists, plans are underway to launch the “Balawala Reloaded” with a sponsor already in sight while at the same time reactivating the cultural troop and traditional communicators.
“Looking at our achievements, I am grateful. We impacted many artists and still want to do more. We want to continue giving them the training and knowledge to motivate them to take over from us,” said Mr. Kamara.
Mr. Kamara, also a famous television presenter of the Liberia National Television (LNTV), then ELTV, started his acting career back in the mid-80s with the Liberia Jungle Dance Group that made headways before staging the Balawala television series.
“We have done a lot in the past and it won’t be a good thing the group name to just get lost from the scene. Besides our work in the movies and entertainment industry, in a bid to restore lasting peace to Liberia, Balawala International group participated in the disarmament process across the country by creating awareness through cultural performances and sensitization. During the process, the group worked with 12 other organizations of traditional communicators to spread the messages of peace and the need for disarmament. The group has also helped in creating awareness around HIV/AIDS. We worked in the areas of elections – through the CVE process. We were also there during the Ebola, during corona and so on. There are lots we can do for this country and so we want to come back with a brand new version of our activities,” he stated.
“As a result of our participation, many of the young people saw the need to disarm and today, many of the artists are following our path.”
“Our goal now is to inspire, and through the support of Dr. Clarice Kulah. We want to bring back Malawala Balawala Reloaded. We got a new story of the new Balaala; it captures the war and post war eras. We will feature new artists. We are coming back with the new version that will capture new generation of actors so as to enhance the promotion of our cultures and values,” he stated.
The veteran Liberian actor and television personality then called on the Government of Liberia (GoL) to support the artistic industry.
“I want to call on the Government of Liberia to look at culture as one of the priorities that can help propagate and maintain peace. This will help to promote our value; we need more investments in the sector so that our entertainment industry can flourish. We are way behind our neighbors who are there making headways. We need to catch up. I think that much can be achieved with the establishment of the copy right office. We need private sector investment because we need travels for exposure. As part of our objectives, we hope to travel next all over the world for Cultural exchange so as to solidify ties with other countries culture. Promote our Cultural values abroad,” added Mr. Kamara.
BI is the brain behind the success of several top Liberian artists including Liberia’s 2007-2008 Star is born winner, Moses Swaray, international reggae star A. B. Swaray and the Bassa singer, Caesar Gartoh. As a result of its splendid displays in the cultural dance industry, the cultural dance crew of BI, during its glorious days, made some extensive travels to USA, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, DR Congo (then Zaire).