Liberia: Visa for Music Audition Attracts over 100 Artists in Monrovia

Daniel T. George (DenG), Frank Norman, Executive Director of Be100 Africa and Radio, Louise M. Siaway, Visa for Music Ambassador, and Brahim EL Mazned, Visa for Music (VFM) Director at Monrovia City Hall, attending the audition.

Visa for Music (VFM), in collaboration with the government of Liberia, thru Sehwah Liberia, the Music Union of Liberia (MULIB), and Be100 Africa, has held the first audition for VFM 2024 in Monrovia.

The audition was held on Tuesday, February 27, 2024, at the Monrovia City Hall in Monrovia, directed by Louise M. Siaway, Visa for Music Ambassador in collaboration with Frank Norman of Be100 Africa Radio and Brahim EL Mazned, Visa for Music (VFM) Director.

Siaway is also a former Assistant Minister for Culture at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs, and Tourism (MICAT).  

Visa for Music is a performing arts festival and professional marketplace for contemporary music from Africa and the Middle East. Its activities address both professionals in the cultural and creative industries as well as the general public. For four days in November of each year, Visa for Music has been taking place since 2014 in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Both applications by artists as well as the numbers of professional attendees and public audiences have been increasing over the years, reaching more than 16,000 participants in 2022.

VFM was created in 2014 by Brahim El Mazned and the organization for cultural engineering, Anya. The festival brings together African and Middle Eastern artists from all genres of contemporary world music. Its mission is, first of all, to participate in the development of the music market in Africa and beyond, to discover new talents, and to promote the creation of partnerships. It aims to provide a showcase and marketing opportunity for the benefit of artists and international cultural professionals. 

El Mazned, Visa for Music (VFM) Director, expressed gratitude to be in Liberia to meet artists and professionals in the music business. “I am also here for a few days promoting Visa for Music. Visa for Music over the years has brought artists from the whole of Africa, and we chose Liberian artists to form part of the Visa for Music again this year,” he added.

Mazned said he is also in Liberia to see and know what is happening in the music business in Liberia.

He extended his appreciation to Louise M. Siaway, Visa for Music Ambassador to Liberia, for the great work that she is carrying out in Liberia and said he was impressed by what was being done.

“Visa for Music is an African festival linked to music, so everybody who comes to Visa for Music discovers many things linked to the music business. We have many African colleagues, artists, and the media, but we also have more than 1,000 delegates coming from all over the world, which is a wonderful opportunity for Liberian artists to network and meet other people who are working in the music  business.”

Louise M. Siaway, Visa for Music Ambassador to Liberia, said the audition is intended to look at Liberians’ talents in the entertainment industry — musical talents, culture, and movies — to see what Liberia has to offer so that VFM can help improve the entertainment industry.

According to her, the final shortlisted artists from the audition will perform on the international stage at the VFM festival in Morocco in November 2024.

“We will be taking artists, and we will also be taking a media person and technical people along,” she said. “In the past, we have taken about fifteen artists to Morocco on this same program to perform on the international stage with other artists from around the Middle East and Africa, and we will continue with this program to keep showcasing our artists’ talent to the world.”

Frank Norman, Executive Director of Be100 Africa and Be100 Radio, also said he is in Liberia to select the next super stars to put them on the international platform through Visa for Music.

“It’s going to be that experience that all Liberians need to be socially known. It is an experience on the international stage; it is not a baby shower party; it is not performing in a club; this is a festival that will have over eight countries watching you perform,” he said. “We have to get Liberia out at that level, and Ma Louise has set the stage, so people need to understand where we are now. We are setting a standard; and that standard, going forward, is how it is going to be, so Liberia has to get used to that.” 

The audition attracted over 100 local recording artists, many of whom admitted that this was the very first audition of their musical careers. Some came well dressed and prepared, while others spotted the VFM audition banner posted at the Monrovia City Hall and, in the spur of the moment, stopped by to sign up for the audition. 

“It was my very first audition, so I was nervous,” said Leo, a Liberian rapper. Standing next to him, at the same height and build, was another rapper named Leon, who had an identical experience as Leo. “I was on my way to class and saw the banner and decided to stop and see if I could get into the audition and I did,” Leon said. By the similarities in their names, genre and appearance, they became instant friends.  

Arblakolo Toe, a Liberian female gospel recording artist singing in a local dialect, auditioned with a song that she recorded in 2015. Interestingly, Ms. Toe’s song found its way back to prominence in 2023, when staffers at the Liberian Senate reappropriated the tune, using their own lyrics, as an opposition political mantra. 

The entire audition lasted until 6:30pm, with many artists presenting very captivating songs and cultural performances. Some had great lyrics; others had great stage presence or costumes. However, the final decision on who goes to Rabat in November rests with the judges.

Daniel T. George (DenG), one of the Liberia’s hit recording artists, performed at the Visa for Music Festival in 2020. According to him, Visa for Music is a beautiful platform for artists to showcase their culture and musical talent.

He described the festival as an exhibition from across Africa that can provide artists with access to the international community to showcase their talents and connect them to the outside world.

“I spent about a week and a half in Morocco for the Visa for Music Festival, and it was great performing with other artists out there, and I did what I knew best. VFM needs more mainstream artists; this is why they are here to increase the opportunity for our entertainers.

DenG urged his fellow Liberian artists to take advantage of the opportunity and not shy away because they could become the next DenG or JZyNo.