Musicians’ Union President Promises Better Future for Artists

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Officers of the Musicians Union of Liberia (MULIB) take oath of office, administered by Mr. Kenneth Y. Best

Sammy Gboguy, who has vowed to launch several “profound and radical” reforms to improve the lives of musicians across Liberia, was sworn in as President of the Musicians Union of Liberia at a grand event at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium on Saturday, March 23, 2019.

The swearing-in ceremony brought together several leading personalities of the union, as well as government officials, to witness the first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another in a decade and a half.

Held in collaboration with the Department of Culture of the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Toursim (MICAT) the event featured performances from the Heavenly Melody Music Ministry choir, the Kissi Mass Choir, Hip-co artist Takun J and Gospel-cultural artist Miracle Kettor, among others.

Lance Gbargonyon, Deputy Minister for Culture and Tourism at MICAT, gave initial remarks on behalf of he Ministry, while Darius Gweh, MICAT Director for Culture, set the pace for the program, highlighting the resource of the Cultural Policy on Liberia by Mr. Kenneth Y. Best as his guide for driving MICAT’s work with the Collective Societies, which include unions of various artistic and creative disciplines.

Performing the induction ceremony, veteran Liberian journalist Kenneth Y. Best, founder and publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, earlier shared his experience as a former MICAT official and his initiative taken to research and produce, with the help of UNESCO, the Cultural Policy on Liberia. He spoke of the collaboration between the Ministry of Education and MICAT at the time, which resulted in his being selected to attend a UNESCO conference in Paris, where he saw the need to populate the empty Liberian section of the UNESCO world archives with literary material, beginning with the Cultural Policy on Liberia, which he wrote, and other relevant documents.  He however cautioned the new leaders of the Musicians Union to beware of envy within the union and ensure that opportunities are shared based on merit.

Mr. Best then congratulated the new corps of MULIB officers on their election and thanked them for their interest to lead. “By God’s grace you will succeed where others have failed,” he said, taking the Holy Bible, which each officer kissed after reciting the oath of office.

The union ’s outgoing president, Cecil Griffiths, who became president in the 1990s, overstayed his constitutional mandate of three years and did not hold any election as mandated by the constitution after every three years a for at least a decade and a half.

Describing himself as a reformist and a listening President, Gboguy promised to improve the living conditions of musicians across the country by working with the Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) to enforce the country’s IP laws and upholding the union’s bylaws.

Mr. Gboguy added his election to the union’s presidency is a victory for all the Liberian artists who have suffered for long from leadership neglect.

“My goal is to create jobs, promote peace and reconciliation and to guarantee protection for all artistic expressions by tackling the widespread issue of piracy, which is pervasive in the music industry in collaboration with LIPO to attract investors in the sector,” he said.

Known for his practical and unpretentious demeanor, Gboguy has promised to battle corruption, nepotism and gender inequality that has rocked the industry for years and to usher in a new era of a government program that will benefit musicians instead of the union leaders.

Gboguy, who ascended to the helm of the union in a landslide victory, won the union’s elections by 256 votes strong, beating veteran rapper Rokenzy G. Smith who got 45 votes.

Other inducted officials of the union include: McDonald K. Parcular and Miatta Love Kamara, first Vice and second Vice Presidents, respectively; Brenda Bortey Sims, Secretary General; Florence Ballah Korboi, Welfare Officer; and Majaidah Queen, National Organizer.

Outlining his vision for the struggling Liberian music industry, the union president said: “My administration’s goal is to build a music industry where artists can live and work in dignity as well as get fair compensation for their works.

“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for artists on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow artists to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on transparency, unity, accountability, due diligence, justice and a source of resources for all.”

However, he warned that the change envisioned by his administration to improve the overall well-being of the musicians in the music industry would come neither overnight nor in the absence of unity.

Mr. Gboguy added: “Although the task at hand is not an easy one, it is the mandate given to us to change the music industry from one in which the majority lived with little hope, to one in which they can live and work with dignity, with a sense of self-esteem and confidence in the future.

“However, this is impossible in the absence of unity among all musicians in Liberia, which requires everyone to work together to bring an end to division and suspicion and build an industry united in diversity.”

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